March 12, 2003

Sophomore Savvy

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The date was Apr. 9, 2002. The place: Schoellkopf Field. Though the opponent was No. 1 Syracuse, Cornell attackman Sean Greenhalgh was not about to let a little adversity get in his way. Greenhalgh made history that day on the rain-soaked Schoellkopf turf, becoming the first Cornell freshman to score six goals in a game, helping the men’s lacrosse team win its eighth straight game.

Greenhalgh has been no stranger to the score sheet as a member of the Red. Only a sophomore, the preseason All-American has established himself as one of the premier offensive players in the Ivy League, if not the nation. His 42 points last season wasn’t just a school freshman record, it also led a team that featured one of the more diverse offenses in the country. Greenhalgh’s production has been tremendous, if not unexpected.

“We had hoped he would give us a boost in terms of production,” said men’s lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni, “but if you told me he was going to score close to 40 goals in his freshman year, I would have been extremely surprised.”

Tambroni’s surprise was not a function, though, of Greenhalgh exceeding expectations. “That’s just an awful difficult task to ask [of] a freshman,” he said.

If not for the pure lack of experience on the Division I level, Greenhalgh could easily have been considered one of the best incoming players to ever don a Cornell uniform — a can’t miss blue-chipper.

Just don’t tell Greenhalgh that.

“People look at those numbers and think that I had a great year,” he said, “but in fact the team had a great year and I just happened to reap the benefits of it.”

Greenhalgh, a prolific, efficient pure scorer, prides himself on playing team lacrosse. He feels that the Cornell program gives him the perfect vehicle to do just that, regardless of personal accolades.

“The numbers I put up were just team numbers,” he said. “I think coach Tambroni recognizes the strengths of everybody.”

Thanks in large part to his background as a box lacrosse player, Greenhalgh’s strength is putting the ball in the net.

A native of St. Catharines, Ontario, Greenhalgh played hockey and lacrosse throughout his childhood. He saw the two sports as the perfect way to stay prepared season to season.

“I played hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the summer, a good segue into each sport,” he said.

It was this combination that brought Greenhalgh to Cornell.

“When I was younger, my best friend’s uncle lived here,” Greenhalgh explained, “and we’d come down and watch games and that’s how I got to know Cornell.”

While hockey introduced Cornell to Greenhalgh, lacrosse introduced Greenhalgh to Cornell.

“He grew up a die-hard Cornell hockey fan, sent us a film [of an indoor league game] because he really loved Cornell,” Tambroni recalled. “We fell in love with him the minute we saw him play.”

The rest has been history. His 39 goals and three assists in 2002 have set a lofty standard against which Greenhalgh will be measured for the remainder of his career.

“He set the bar awful high as a freshman so we’ve got pretty high expectations for him as we go into this year,” said Tambroni. “I don’t think there is [a ceiling] with this young man. Watching him practice, he continues to amaze us with his stick skills and his creativity. He does stuff that I’ve never seen before, stuff that you don’t coach, he just does.”

Greenhalgh will likely become a greater target for opposing defenses this season. A desire to stop his offensive onslaught could be the sole objective of some defensive schemes, a trend that began last season.

“About halfway through the season, you noticed that opponents’ defensive schemes started to shut him off,” said Tambroni. “Just not pay any attention to what we were doing offensively, and that was Princeton’s game plan.”

The plan paid off, as Greenhalgh was limited to a single goal in the Red’s 12-7 loss at Princeton.

Changes in opponents’ defensive strategy will necessitate a change in the Cornell offense.

“I’m hopeful that this year, we’ll have more of a system that’s going to help other people produce because of the attention that Sean’s going to draw,” Tambroni said.

Despite a bit of a change in his job description, it would be foolish to expect a significant drop in Greenhalgh’s production. Just as playing against the top-ranked squad in the nation did not daunt Greenhalgh a year ago, increased attention will not this year.

As Greenhalgh said: “Never underestimate me.”

Archived article by Owen Bochner