Usually it’s Cornell that wins the groundball war.
But against Brown this past Saturday in Providence, R.I., it was the men’s lacrosse team (7-5, 4-2 Ivy) that lost its most important groundball of the year. And as a result, it also lost its chance to claim an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament.
With the game tied 8-8 entering overtime, a loose ball scurried away from the face-off X. Brown picked it up and put it in the hands of Brian Miller, who quelled Cornell’s postseason hopes by beating Red junior netminder Justin Cynar to the end the contest only 19 seconds into the extra period.
“He was all by himself,” sophomore attackman Michael Egan described how Miller slipped behind the Cornell defense and ended up one-on-one with Cynar. “He just put it in. You can’t expect Justin to make a save like that.”
After losing to Princeton 7-4 last weekend, the Red would have had to beaten the Bears as well as Ohio State (its opponent next Saturday) to make a case for a postseason berth.
“We’re definitely bummed,” Egan said. “We knew we had to win.”
Although Cornell prides itself on coming out on top in the groundball and face-off categories, those between-the-lines may have been the Red’s downfall this weekend.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted to,” Egan said. “We got outworked by them. It feels like we didn’t get the groundballs we should have.”
Senior Drew Schardt used different diction in explaining the loss, but his message was the same.
“Outplayed is the best word for what it was,” he said. “They made more plays than we did.”
In the loss, Cynar recorded 11 saves while Brown netminder Beret Dickson had 18.
“[Cynar’s] play was excellent,” Egan praised. “He didn’t let in any of the losses he wasn’t supposed to let in.”
As it frequently does, the Red held the lead at half-time, 6-2. Schardt and classmate David Key scored, as did junior Galen Beers and Egan.
But as it has in all its losses this year, Cornell helplessly witnessed its opponent mount a successful comeback in the second half. Brown scored the first two goals after intermission to trim its deficit to 6-4. Richard Mormile and Chris Mucciolo got on the board for the Bears.
Key and Schardt scored for the Red, before Brown got one to make it an 8-5 game.
However, while Cornell’s offense was shut down for the rest of the game, Brown’s attack rode its momentum, scoring three more times to even the score at 8-8 at the end of regulation, making way for the Bears’ improbable overtime victory.
“I think mentally, we weren’t ready to go in the second half,” Schardt said. “I don’t think we had our minds in it.”
For Schardt and other two seniors on team (Key and defenseman Bobby Werhane), Saturday’s loss assures they won’t be able to extend their careers past next weekend.
“We certainly were disappointed,” Schardt said. “We wanted to try to go out positively in the Ivy League.”
“The seniors were absolutely devastated,” Egan added. “They worked too hard this year not to see the fruits of their labor.”
However, if there is a sliver of a sliver lining to be found in the defeat, it’s that Key —