One look in senior defender Bobby Werhane’s eyes following Wednesday’s trumping of Colgate told it all. It was the unwavering focus of a warrior who would subject his body to the maximum pain to gain a win for his team.
And after holding Colgate without a goal in the first period, while rattling off ten of its own, the entire men’s lacrosse team seemed to have contracted Werhane’s drive.
Cornell (2-0, 0-0 Ivy) will need that spirited enthusiasm as it travels south tomorrow to face UMBC. The match marks the Red’s first tilt with a nationally ranked team. The Retrievers are currently slotted at eleventh in the country.
The hosts sport an identical 2-0 mark, opening with a narrow overtime victory over Navy before handling Mount St. Mary’s on the road.
The departure of phenom Sean Steinwald ’00 left the Red looking to distribute offensive opportunities more broadly. The Retrievers find themselves in similar circumstances with 25 players on the roster having one or no years of Division I experience.
With their top guns lost to graduation, the club is counting on several of its talented young athletes to contribute immediately.
The most secure unit for the home team will be its defense. Two of its starting defenders, Eric Hester and Jon Smith, are red-shirt juniors, while goaltender Steve Cusa and defenseman Dave Smith have found themselves with big game experience. The Smith brothers, touted for their exceptional athleticism, will look to stymie a Cornell offense that scored 18 times in its last matchup.
Both teams use a ball-control offense, so the Red’s defense should be well exposed in practice to what it will see tomorrow. Perhaps the Retrievers’ most potent offensive weapon is senior tri-captain Josh Hahn, coming off a campaign in which he collected 30 points on 20 goals and 10 helpers. A fairly accurate shot (43.6% for his career), the veteran is also particularly strong at collecting ground balls. He had a streak of 18 games over the last two campaigns in which he notched at least one score.
The Red counter with a similar ball-control style of offense. Key to its success will be the ability to distributed the scoring well.
“We’re gonna need a lot of people on the scoreboard day in and day out,” Werhane said.
With sophomore Justin Cynar, a stalwart in goal, Cornell has the ability to rely a bit more on its offense.
“Whether or not shots come from the insider or outside, [Cynar] will be able to make the saves, so we’re able to ride the wave of our offense a little bit,” Werhane added.
The netminder is aware of the importance of his role on the team.
“It is important for me to make saves on early, otherwise the defense put their heads down,” Cynar commented on the need to play strong from the opening face off tomorrow.
Another key match-up will come in the midfield, particularly at the face-off position. The Red’s junior Addison Sollog will do battle with senior tri-captain Brian Lawton, who last year sat atop the nation’s leaders in face-off percentage at .615.
The Red wants to avoid the type of let-down that plagued it in the second quarter of the Colgate game and the final moments of the contest with Farfield.
“We’re going down to Baltimore to face the No. 11 team in the country [today] and we need to realize where we let down and clean that up,” a resolved Werhane stated.
Last year when the two teams met Cornell won the clash on East Hill, 12-8. It was a game keyed by the departed Steinwald, who posted four goals including a crucial tally in the middle of the second quarter that broke a 3-3 deadlock. While the Red can’t bring the former All-American back, it can hope for a similar performance from junior Scott Lee and senior Andrew Schardt, each of whom tallied a pair of goals.