April 10, 2002

Better Than The Best

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Five minutes prior to the opening faceoff of the No. 9 men’s lacrosse team’s (8-1, 3-0 Ivy) matchup against No. 1 Syracuse (8-1), rain started to pour as the skies opened up. As soon the game began, Cornell’s offense followed suit, pouring in a season-high six first-quarter goals en route to a 15-11 upending of the top team in the nation.

Since falling to then seventh-ranked Georgetown in the season opener, the Red has reeled off eight straight wins, this one being the most impressive yet.

The Orangemen never held a lead in the contest, although they tied the game at 1-1, 6-6, 7-7 and 8-8, the last of those scores coming 5:40 into the third quarter.

At 6:32 of the third, senior midfielder Galen Beers shook off a defender on the slippery Schoellkopf turf and moved to his right. From there he fired a shot past Syracuse goaltender Jay Pfeifer to put the Red up for good.

Cornell opened the scoring 3:00 into the contest, when sophomore defenseman Tim DeBlois brought the ball up on a clear and found freshman Sean Greenhalgh just off the right post. Greenhalgh, who has been lethal to goalies all season from that spot, beat Pfeifer to give the Red a 1-0 lead.

“That’s a typical attack,” explained Greenhalgh. “[The midfielders] dodge up top, and my man from inside has to slide, so that always leaves me open pretty well. [My teammates] make great passes and it just makes it look easy.”

Greenhalgh added two more tallies in the quarter, and classmate Justin Redd scored twice as well from outside. Junior midfielder J.P. Schalk scored the sixth Cornell goal of the quarter on an assist from senior Billy Fort, who recorded three assists in the game, all in the first frame. After the smoke cleared from the Red’s first quarter shooting spree, the score stood at 6-2, Cornell’s largest lead of the game.

“I thought our offense hit some of the key shots early to give us confidence, and I’m sure Pfeifer maybe questioned himself a bit in the first half, so that helped us as well,” noted head coach Jeff Tambroni.

The Orangemen were not about to let the game slip away from them, though, and less than a minute into the second period, Brian Solliday beat Red senior goalie Justin Cynar with a low shot. Steve Vallone, who scored Syracuse’s first goal, followed with another 5:10 into the quarter.

Later in the quarter, the Orangemen’s leading scorer, Michael Powell, scored twice in the span of 16 seconds to even the game at six to enter the half. Powell also tallied in the first quarter and assisted on the two Syracuse goals to open the second.

While the Orange was battling back, Cornell was unable to muster a single goal in the quarter.

“Coach just told us that we really needed to value the ball,” Redd said of Tambroni’s halftime speech. “We want to play our style of game and stay away from the run and gun that Syracuse likes to do. We just wanted to hold possession and take good, smart shots, and we did a good job of that in the second half.”

The two squads traded goals to open the half, with Redd and Greenhalgh each scoring for Cornell while Jarett Park and Tom Hardy scored to help the Orangemen keep pace. Beers’s goal gave the Red its 9-8 lead.

At 8:23 into the third quarter, junior midfielder Mike Riordan, who was in the game to give Cornell’s regular midfielders a break, jumped into the action as well. He scored his first career goal on a beautiful play in which he brought the ball fr ehind the net, dove in front and shot simultaneously, beating Pfeifer to extend the Red’s lead to 10-8.

“Not only are [the substitutes] giving us an opportunity to rest some guys, but they’re also creating opportunities for us offensively and getting big scoring opportunities,” praised Tambroni. “[Riordan and senior Colin Crawford] in particular have been a huge boost to our offense and to our team in general.”

Syracuse fought back again, narrowing the margin to 10-9 on a Michael Springer extra man goal two minutes later.

Cornell’s leading scorer, sophomore attacker Andrew Collins, refused to let the Orange pull within one goal again, scoring from in front on a Redd feed. Greenhalgh scored his fifth of the game soon after when he quick sticked a pass from Crawford into the net, giving the Red a 12-9 lead entering the final quarter.

Brian Nee of the Orangemen scored his team’s second straight extra man goal at 3:19 of the fourth quarter after Cynar made a series of spectacular saves to begin the frame.

Cornell and Syracuse continued to trade goals after Nee’s tally, as Collins scored again, followed by Springer’s second and Redd’s fourth of the contest. Greenhalgh wrapped up the scoring with 4:24 left in the game when he scored his sixth of the evening off a pass from junior defender Ryan McClay, who outran the Orange midfielders on the clearing attempt.

While the story of the game was the Red’s ability to win a fast-paced shootout with the best offensive team in the country, Cynar’s play in net played a pivotal role in keeping the Syracuse attack at bay.

“I think he did a great job,” remarked Orange head coach John Desko. “He really got down low well today, and when we felt we did crack that great Cornell defense today, he was the last resort and he came up big a number of times.”

The senior goaltender made 11 saves, while his counterpart, Pfeifer, could only come up with five.

Senior faceoff specialist Addison Sollog also was key in Cornell’s second-half surge. Playing with an injured back, he won nine of 16 draws in the latter half of the contest and played an important part in helping the Red win the possession battle.

“Possession is the name of the game. As a goalie, and as a defenseman, we like to see the ball at the other end,” said Cynar, as McClay nodded his affirmation. “Having Addison, a great faceoff guy, and two really good wing guys, you feel confident that they’ll do their job, and it takes a load off our backs.”

Syracuse hadn’t surrendered 15 goals in a game since May 6, 2000, when it gave up 16 to Georgetown but still won a 24-16 offensive fireworks display.

Entering today’s contest, Cornell had won just once in its last 15 games against the Orangemen, a thrilling 13-12 victory two years ago. Much like this year’s win, the 2000 contest was played in the rain at Schoellkopf.

“I think this place kind of defines Cornell lacrosse,” mused McClay. “It’s very hard-nosed, doesn’t look pretty, nose-to-the-grindstone. That’s what Schoellkopf is, and that’s what the weather’s been both times we’ve played them. It definitely describes Cornell.”

The Red now has to gear up for another important conference matchup on Saturday, when it hosts Ivy foe Dartmouth at 1:00 p.m.

Archived article by Alex Fineman