April 23, 2001

Lead, Title Slip Out Of M. Lax's Hands

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The dejected Cornell men’s lacrosse team walked off Schoellkopf Field after giving up six unanswered goals in the team’s 7-4 loss to Princeton. The Red (7-4, 5-1 Ivy) and the Tigers (9-1, 5-0) knew that Saturday’s game would unofficially name the Ivy League champion, and the visitors came away with the win and a ticket to the NCAA tournament.

“I personally felt that today was destined to be our day,” senior tri-captain Bobby Werhane commented.

Werhane’s prediction seemed ready to come true as the Red jumped out to a 3-1 halftime lead, only to increase it to 4-1 in the first minutes of the second half.

Sophomore Michael Egan, who has a penchant for scoring in conference matches (13 goals), got Cornell on the board when classmate J.P. Schalk found him open during the man-up situation to the right of the cage.

Princeton’s leading scorer, Matt Streibel, tied the score on an unassisted play.

But Egan, who was instrumental in last year’s dismantling of No. 1 Syracuse, was resolved to keep the Red in the lead. With 4:03 remaining in the quarter, he launched a shot from 25 yards out that fooled Princeton ‘keeper Trevor Tierney and most of the fans watching.

Senior tri-captain David Key increased the scoring differential at 12:56 in the second stanza. Sophomore Ryan McClay passed to Key who beat Tierney on a one-on-one situation.

But the Cornell possessions were few and far between, as most of the game was spent at the Red’s end of the field. Princeton outshot Cornell 23-10 — 12-2 in the second quarter alone — but it was behind the outstanding play of junior netminder Justin Cynar that Cornell remained in the driver’s seat.

“Their defense is so stingy,” head coach Jeff Tambroni said of the No. 2 ranked backfield. “We had to save our shots for when we had them and make sure that we took the right shots.”

Cynar, who played an inspired 60 minutes, can take much of the credit for the lead, outplaying Tierney — last year’s first team Ivy League selection.

“We may not have the best defense in the Ivy League,” Werhane said, “but we sure as hell have the best goalie in the Ivy League.

“He made some saves that I don’t know how he did it. He made some saves that I hadn’t seen in four years.”

But going into halftime, the Red couldn’t rest on its laurels, especially against a potent opponent with a bench full of fresh legs.

“Our goal in the second half was to try to play to win — not to play to not lose,” Tambroni said.

“[There were] 30 more minutes to dig in, 30 more minutes of hard-nosed lacrosse,” Cynar said.

The Red’s precarious lead seemed more permanent when freshman Andrew Collins opened the third quarter by finding the back of the cage at 11:58 as time ran out on a Princeton penalty for too many men on the field. A reinvigorated Cornell squad was hoping to knock off the No. 1 ranked team for the second time in two years.

However, the Princeton trio of Streibel, Season Hartofilis and Ryan Boyle was unwilling to lose its first Ivy League game in its last 36 attempts. One of the three had a hand in all but one of the Tigers’ goals.

Streibel began the Tigers’ run at 8:32 left in the third on a man advantage. Boyle had the assist. Hartofilis added two more goals to close the third at a 4-4 tie.

Cornell incurred 5:30 of penalties in the second half to keep Princeton in control for much of the rest of the game. The defense limited the Tigers’ attack on the man advantage as they only converted two of eight.

Hartofilis completed his hat-trick three minutes into the fourth, scoring the game winner. Kyle Baugher made the score 6-4 on an empty net goal.

“They did a good job of chipping away,” Tambroni said.

The officiating, which found Cornell at the short end of the stick, became oppressive in the final three minutes. Any chance of a comeback was crushed when Josh Heller was called for a slash with 32 seconds remaining. Werhane reacted to the disputed call with some words of his own to the referees who continually gave Princeton an advantage in the game. The result was an unsportsmanlike penalty.

“I made a mistake and said something to the refs that I shouldn’t have,” Werhane admitted.

Two men down, two goals down and accepting the fate of breaking its undefeated streak in the Ivy League, the Red witnessed B.J. Prager gave the Tigers their final goal of the game.

“It’s really tough to deal with when the game’s on the line and there’s five minutes to play, and you don’t feel like there’s a fair chance,” Cynar said.

The lacrosse season is far from over. The Cornell team has two more games against Brown and Ohio State. The men have little margin for error if they want to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

Archived article by Amanda Angel