After starting the season in rather disappointing fashion, men’s lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni talked about discovering the stride that would allow his team to play the “Cornell way.” For a program that prides itself on its stingy defense and gritty tenacious style, a season that started with an embarrassing 8-5 setback at Georgetown and a narrow 10-9 victory over mediocre Colgate was far from what it had expected. So, naturally Saturday’s home opener against Maryland-Baltimore County provided an opportunity for redemption.
Consider step one of Cornell’s rejuvenation complete.
“I thought today was the first game we played like a team,” Tambroni said following the Red’s 16-4 dismantling of its visitors.
Prior to the game, the laxers huddled around the number of legendary Cornell player Eamon McEneaney ’77, who lost his life in the attack on the World Trade Center buildings.
“We talked about being a more committed player and teammate. It’s about the passion that No. 10 brought to Cornell lacrosse,” Tambroni offered.
That passion was palpable all afternoon on Schoellkopf Field as the Red put on a clinic at both ends of the ball.
Sophomore middie Andrew Collins single-handedly outscored the Retrievers, pacing the Red with seven points on four goals. Eight others joined the scoring party for Cornell, who took a 6-2 lead into the intermission. The Red outshoot UMBC 46-21 on the day.
“Everyone got a touch,” Collins said. “Everyone got a chance to play. We moved the ball around well. The chemistry was really there.”
“One of the things that we talked about because of the loss of three attackers was that we had to share the ball and have different people step up,” Tambroni affirmed. “It was a collective effort offensively.”
Throughout the preseason, the team preached its new look attack that was smaller and craftier in the wake of the loss of three seniors to graduation.
It was touted as a strategy that would enable Cornell to operate more fluently from behind the net and it worked to perfection Saturday.
Just under three minutes into the game, Collins set up behind the cage and found emerging sophomore Ian Rosenberger who fired it past UMBC netminder Tim Flannigan.
The Red tallied three more scores in a span of as many minutes in the middle of the opening period to stake itself to a 4-0 lead. Two came off the stick of freshman stud Sean Greenhalgh.
By any measure, Cornell dominated the game. Most notably, the Red returned to its usual form, picking up 49 ground balls compared to the Retrievers 22.
“If your team is picking up ground balls, you know your getting an effort out of your guys,” Tambroni praised.
The home side also received another strong effort from senior faceoff specialist Addison Sollog who won 15 of 23 draws. Cornell used this advantage to strangle its opponents in terms of the time of possession battle.
“It’s good to see Addison getting back on track,” Tambroni said. “He’s the one guy who has been the most focused the last few weeks. When he has a good performance we are disappointed and when he has a great performance we expect it.”
The second period was the most contested as the teams each scored twice. UMBC cut the Cornell lead to 5-2 when Josh Gerber set up Adam Shiley at the 7:45 mark of the middle period. The Retrievers picked up both of their goals in transition, but despite moments of mounting pressure on Red netminder Justin Cynar, the Cornell close defense foiled any attempt to establish a legitimate offensive threat.
“Our defense was talking and that was something we’ve been working on in practice,” sophomore defender Tim DeBlois said. “We were all on the same page. It was clicking out there.”
The defense also chimed in on the offensive end, with senior standout All-American Ryan McClay joining in the offensive zone for two of the Red’s scores. Junior defenseman Frank Sands netted Cornell’s final score at the 9:54 mark of the fourth quarter.
After Joey Kesterman’s unassisted goal in the final moments of the third period, it was all Cornell, as the Red reeled off six goals in the closing 15 minutes. Two came courtesy of freshman Justin Redd, including a blistering point blank shot from 15-yards out.
“The freshman class is really stepping up for us. They’re coming out and playing confident,” Collins said.
Added Tambroni: “They’ve really given us a boost early in the year, at a time when I think a lot of people expected us to have some growing pains because of graduation.”
On a down note, Greenhalgh suffered a minor concussion early in the game. Tambroni termed his status as “very questionable” for Tuesday’s game against Canisius.
Saturday’s contest gave Tambroni a chance to showcase his squad’s depth, as 30 members of the team saw action including freshman backup goalie Kyle Miller who recorded one save through 3:11 of playing time. Cynar who was largely untested notched seven saves.
The win appeared to lend a dose of confidence to a Cornell squad that has just two more games before it opens its Ivy League schedule against Yale on Mar. 23.
Said DeBlois: “All week in practice our seniors and captains have realized the sense of urgency. I think we had a little bit of a lull [in the first two games], but now we are back in stride.”
Archived article by Gary Schueller