August 29, 2001

A Season of Champions and Near Champions Remembered

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Before the 2001-2002 Cornell sports season begins, we thought it would be nice to reflect on what happened in the year just past. Here’s a look back at all the ins and outs of the Cornell sports last season:

-Cornell’s softball team clinched its second Ivy League title in three years, but the foes from Harvard blasted through their last six games to share part of first place. With only one NCAA bid to share for the league, the two met for a best-of-three playoff series in Cambridge, Mass.

Freshman Nicole LePera started and won the first game for the Red, stretching her undefeated streak to four. She allowed only two earned runs and five hits over seven innings of work. Her offense buoyed her to the 5-3 victory.

Senior ace Nicole Zitarelli, one of the integral ingredients to the 1999 campaign, started the second half of the double-header. She proved to be as unhittable as LePera in the 3-2 winning effort, allowing only five hits to earn the Red an NCAA bid

The team anxiously waited a week for the brackets only to find itself matched up against top-seeded LSU. A sloppy game by the Red led the Tigers over Cornell, 8-0.

The Red faced elimination in its next game against Penn State. The down-trodden squad could not regroup against the Lions as it ended the season with a 4-0 loss at Tiger Park.

-The men’s basketball team suffered in the wake of head coach Scott Thompson’s resignation due to his bout with cancer. Former Penn assistant Steve Donahue took the reins of the program and tried to establish some stability. After a crushing loss against the Michigan State Spartans over Thanksgiving weekend, Cornell focused on the Ivy season. Sparks of brilliance were often snuffed out by periods of poor shooting and lax defense, but the season was salvaged by an upset of conference powerhouse Princeton, the first time in the last 15 contests against the Tigers.

The Red also found talent in freshman point guard and three-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week Ka’Ron Barnes. Donahue incremented Barnes’s minutes over the season and will undoubtedly rely on the guard’s athleticism in his sophomore season.

-Men’s lacrosse coach Jeff Tambroni had large shoes to fill after legendary college lacrosse player and coach Dave Pietramala left for the head coaching position at his alma mater, Johns Hopkins.

The season started with one-goal decisions against Fairfield, UMBC and Penn State. But after a 16-3 routing of the Crimson, Cornell’s laxers seemed to be on a roll. The high tide for the squad came at halftime against No. 1 Princeton in the unofficially Ivy League title game. The Red found itself ahead 3-1 (and 4-1 three minutes into the second half). But the Tigers netted six consecutive goals in the second half to win the championship and also eventually beat Syracuse in the NCAA finals.

-The 2000 Cornell football team made an art of fourth quarter comebacks. The Red came from behind to outlast Yale 24-23. Against Harvard, junior quarterback Ricky Rahne and the offense racked up 29 second half points to squash the Crimson’s 28 point halftime lead, 29-28. Princeton also succumbed to the Red 25-24.

The season climaxed in a final game showdown against Penn for the Ivy title. It would have been the first time that Cornell won an outright football championship. But luck was on the Quakers’ side as they ran away with the title, 45-15. In the following months head coach Pete Mangurian resumed his position as an offensive line coach under Atlanta Falcon’s coach Dan Reeves. He was replaced by Tim Pendergast.

-The men’s hockey team struggled in the first part of the season, due in large part to sophomore defenseman Doug Murray’s knee injury, but spent some time at the top of the ECAC. It held the No. 4 seed going into the ECAC tournament.

After sweeping Princeton out of the first playoff round, junior goaltender Matt Underhill, who would finish the season with the nation’s third-lowest goals against average, helped lift the squad over Harvard, 3-1, in the ECAC semifinals. However, St. Lawrence beat the Red in the final and won the automatic berth to NCAAs.

-In 1999, the volleyball team finished last in the Ivies. Resolved not to let it happen again, the women came out blazing in 2000. Under senior Robin Moore’s tutelage, the women tied for third in the Ivies. But unlike in years past, the season was far from over after the regular season ended.

The women entered the Ivy League volleyball tournament with high hopes and more than accomplished them. They demolished Brown in the first round. Next they upset Penn comfortably 3-1. For the first time in recent memory the squad made it to the championship game, going up against No. 1 seeded Princeton. The Red cruised to a 2-1 lead, but the Tigers were able to capture the last two games to win 3-2. Moore, despite being on the losing end, was voted the 2000 Ivy League Tournament MVP and, soon after, The Sun’s Senior Athlete of the Year.

Archived article by Amanda Angel