April 10, 2001

Backyard Brawl

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Sophomore attackman Michael Egan remembers last April 11th perhaps better than anyone else on the men’s lacrosse team. He netted the tying and winning goal in an improbable upset of then No. 1 ranked Syracuse (5-2). Anyone on this campus who can truly call themselves a Cornellian, with the possible exception of freshman and those who lack a pulse should recall the day — arguably one of the finest in the recent history of Cornell athletics.

It was the Red’s (5-2, 3-0, Ivy) first win against a top-billed team since a 16-13 decision in the finals of the 1976 NCAA title game against Maryland.

The squads renew that rivalry tonight at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The duel is slated to begin at 7 p.m.

Cornell enters the match fresh off a 16-3 pummeling of Ancient Eight foe Harvard at Schoellkopf Field. The team’s trademark intensity keyed its victory as the homeside picked up 46 groundballs to the Crimson’s 28. The Red also owned a 14-9 advantage in the faceoffs on the strength of another stellar effort by junior Addison Sollog. Tonight, Cornell’s dominance in the circle will face its most formidable test. The Orange’s Chris Cercy is sporting a blistering .678 face-off winning percentage, seeding him second in the nation entering Saturday’s overtime defeat to Loyola.

“It’s an important match up,” head coach Jeff Tambroni said of the battle between the faceoff specialists. “Chris Cercy is probably the best faceoff man in the country. Addison [Sollog] has been very good of late and I am confident we will get our chances.”

The club’s offensive unit had its best showing of the campaign, owing largely to a nine-point, seven-goal effort from senior tri-captain David Key. Junior Galen Beers rode his scoring streak to seven games, collecting four markers and an assist to contribute to the Red’s cause.

Cornell certainly will have its hands full facing one of the nation’s premiere defenses. Between the pipes for Syracuse is Rob Mulligan, whose 6.14 goals against average place him fourth in the country. Last season, he garnered second team All-American honors.

Tambroni must also prepare his troops for the intimidation factor that the Carrier Dome imposes upon visitors. The home team owns an awe-inspiring 124-11 mark since the inception of the indoor facility in 1981.

“It could be very intimidating because of the added distractions — more people and the enormous nature of the facility,” observed the coach. “I am hoping the maturity of our guys helps us feel more comfortable going in.”

Cornell can take some solace in the fact that it is credited with two of Syracuse’s home defeats. The visitors from East Hill sent the Orange to its first home defeat way back on April 29, 1981. The Red’s last win at the home of the central New York rival came in the form of 19-6 dismantling in 1987, when the team was national runner-up.

A quick start may be just what the doctor ordered for the Red tonight and the statistics are favorable in this department for the squad. Cornell owns a 33-6 advantage in the first stanza of play in seven matches this season. Nonetheless, leads have been tenuous at best for the team. The highlight of second-half collapses was a 30 minute long drought against upstart Penn State which saw the Red surrender a 7-4 half-time advantage to fall 8-7. Tambroni’s tribe is hoping to ride the momentum of a complete start-to-finish effort from Saturday’s contest.

The coach has a simple formula for capturing a victory.

“We need to be consistent and play smart offense and hard defense,” Tambroni explained.

Cornell will need another solid effort from junior goaltender Justin Cynar, who gave up just two goals on 35 Crimson shots last Saturday. Posting a convincing effort against Syracuse can boost the netminder’s confidence which will be crucial heading into the thick of the Ivy League schedule.

The Orange will look to use its heavily-stacked attack to shake the at times impenetrable Cornell defense. The high-octane offense is steered by freshman sensation Mike Powell, who leads the team with 29 points and is averaging nearly five tallies per game. He is the only rookie in the top 15 scorers in the NCAA. His older brother Casey was the only freshman to ever lead the team in scoring, with that achievement coming during Syracuse’s 1995 championship drive. Last season the Red’s defense had the most trouble containing another freshman, Michael Springer, who notched 4 goals in last years 13-12 Cornell triumph. This season, Springer has staked his claim as one of the premiere scoring threats on the team. He has tallied a goal in each of his last games and shares the lead for team scoring with Josh Coffman.

“We believe they are the most powerful and potent offense in the nation. You can’t just stop one or two guys. Everyone is capable of beating you. We need to play a full game,” Tambroni offered.

Archived article by Gary Schueller