PHILADELPHIA — Despite having won five games in a row, head coach Jeff Tambroni still didn’t feel that the No. 12 men’s lacrosse team (6-1, 2-0 Ivy) was running as smoothly as it could.
After pushing past a strong No. 15 Penn (5-2, 1-2) team on Saturday with a balanced effort in a 7-4 win, Tambroni’s troops have six straight wins and are much closer to their peak form.
“This is the first time in a while that we played together. I don’t think we played great today, but I give a lot of that credit to the Penn team,” explained Tambroni. “I thought on both sides of the ball we made enough plays to get us a win.”
The Quakers, which boast one of the stingiest defenses in the country this season, didn’t make it easy for Cornell. Penn outshot the Red, 30-28; the Quakers also stymied Cornell in all five of its extra man situations.
“I think they have the best defense, except for the defense we play in practice five days a week,” remarked freshman attacker Sean Greenhalgh.
Indeed, the Red defense played just as well as Penn’s, if not better. Offensively, the Red was able to come up with some lucky breaks and big goals in key moments.
Senior Billy Fort opened up the scoring on a fluke turnover in the Penn zone. With Quaker goalie Ryan Kelly out of position on the attempted clear, Fort picked up the loose ball and fired it into the open cage from 15 yards out to put Cornell up, 1-0.
“It just flipped right out of [the defenseman’s] stick, a very unlucky play, and I was lucky enough to pick it up, and I just had a lucky goal,” Fort described.
Penn’s Mike Iannacone evened up the scoring a couple of minutes later when he whipped a shot past Red senior goaltender Justin Cynar.
Greenhalgh, Cornell’s leading goal scorer, tallied twice in the last two minutes of the first frame. On a pass from junior J.P. Schalk, Greenhalgh beat Kelly on a low shot at 13:06. Then, as the final second of the quarter ticked off the clock, Greenhalgh extended the lead to 3-1. Fort received the assist on the goal.
The Quakers battled back in the second quarter, though, scoring the period’s only two goals. Alex Kopicki netted the first, and Sonny Sarker scored the equalizer on a nice shot over Cynar’s right shoulder.
The defenses were prevalent again in the third quarter, as the two teams could only muster one goal between them. With 3:48 remaining in the period, Cynar cleared the ball to sophomore Tim DeBlois at midfield, who found classmate Andrew Collins. Collins quickly moved the ball to Greenhalgh, who took his time and gave his team the go-ahead goal.
“[Collins] just fed me the ball. We were told to shoot low, so I faked high and shot low, and the net was there,” recalled Greenhalgh. “It was not as much me as it was Collins and Timmy getting that ball up there and making the nice passes.”
In the final quarter, the Red broke the game open. Collins scooped up a loose ball on a rush and beat Kelly on an unassisted goal 1:33 into the frame. Tic-tac-toe passing led to freshman Justin Redd’s seventh goal of the season, and Greenhalgh scored after another long sequence of solid passes for his fourth of the game and 17th of the season. Fort assisted on both Redd’s and Greenhalgh’s goals.
Penn’s Bob Graustein narrowed the margin to 7-4 with 2:41 remaining in the contest, but despite two extra man opportunities, the Quakers were unable to pull any closer.
The victory was Cornell’s fifth straight against Penn, keeping intact the perfect record that every current member of the program — coaches included — has against the Quakers.
Passing played a huge role in keeping the Red ahead of Penn. Cornell was able to control the ball in the attack zone for extended periods of time in the contest, serving the dual purpose of keeping the ball away from Cynar’s cage and setting up quality shots for the Red.
“The Penn defense is a great defense. They would fly to our men early, and we’d have to move the ball a couple of times, and luckily enough I was the recipient of the second pass, and then we were open,” Fort said of his three-assist output. “That was the key to it.”
Greenhalgh and Fort led the Red with four points apiece in the contest, while Scott Solow’s two assists paced Penn in the points column. Collins’s two-point performance kept his scoring streak alive. He has recorded a point in each of Cornell’s seven games this season, the only player to do so.
Cynar made nine saves in the win, while Kelly stopped 11 shots.
“Justin played fantastic, got a game ball today,” said Tambroni. “He did a good job today, he had a great week in practice, played with a lot of confidence and really gave us a boost.”
The Red moved into first place in the Ivy League with the win, as Princeton dropped a 15-13 contest to Yale on Saturday.
Cornell takes to the road again next weekend when it travels to Harvard in an important conference game.
Archived article by Alex Fineman