Going into Saturday’s game against No. 2 Princeton, the men’s lacrosse team was well aware that it would likely face a big challenge defending the Tigers’ all-world attack, Ryan Boyle. However, the No. 9 Red likely had no idea of just how much pain Boyle and linemate Jason Doneger would inflict, as the pair hooked up for six second-half goals en route to a 17-9 win over Cornell.
“On the offensive end, they did a great job of making it look easy,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “Give them a lot of credit because they did a great job of softening up the inside and then exploiting it.”
The loss effectively ends Cornell’s hopes for an Ivy League championship and the automatic NCAA tournament bid that honor carries. It was also the first home loss of the season for Cornell. The loss does not, however, end the Red’s chances of gaining entry into the NCAA tournament, a fact that was not lost on senior tri-captain Ryan McClay.
“I don’t think by any stretch are we out of the playoff picture, as long as we do our job and get these next two games,” he said. “That’s definitely in the back of our mind, knowing that we still have a chance.”
Princeton dominated the middle quarters, outscoring the Red 10-2 during that span. At one point, the Tigers went on a 7-0 run in which Boyle was involved in every goal.
Boyle began the run with an unassisted goal at 6:45 in the second quarter, as he scored from close range while being shoved by McClay. Boyle’s second goal of the game came about four minutes later, as he scored from a Matt Trevenen pass to give the Tigers a 9-4 lead. With 1:35 left, Boyle found Doneger on the doorstep for the first time on the afternoon to give Princeton a 10-4 lead going into the break, and to give the Red an indication of what was to come.
Doneger scored the first four goals of the second half off assists from Boyle, all in the first seven minutes of the quarter. Very quickly, Cornell found itself in a 13-4 hole with its defense in disarray.
“Our team defense just wasn’t working for us. All of us just kind of got a little wrapped up in our individual matchups, and we weren’t there to help each other,” said McClay. “They went on a roll and we just weren’t able to come up with an answer. They were getting shots from three yards out, you can’t expect our goalie to make saves on that.”
The Red stopped the Tiger run at 6:07 as junior Dave Pittard weaved inside and snuck the ball past Princeton goalie Julian Gould on the lower left corner to give the Red its first score in nearly 20 minutes. However, Princeton finished out the third with two straight goals to take a commanding 14-5 lead into the fourth quarter.
Cornell outscored the Tigers 4-2 in the fourth quarter, including three goals in the final 1:24 of the game against Princeton backup goalie Dave Law, but it was too little, too late, as the Tigers rode their mid-game dominance to the convincing victory.
Throughout the game, Cornell was plagued by sloppiness, especially in the defensive and midfield units. The Red had tremendous difficulty holding on to the ball, struggling with groundball opportunities, dropping passes, and routinely getting beaten by the Tigers to loose balls.
The story of the game, though, was the Boyle-Doneger connection, which burned the Red six times. Doneger scored a total of seven goals on the game — a career high — while Boyle scored two goals with a career-high seven assists. Boyle’s nine points were also a career high.
“I think [Boyle is] probably the second best lacrosse player in the country, other than Mike Powell,” said Tambroni. “Both of them just give you fits Monday through Friday, because you watch them on film and there’s no easy way to defend them. I think what Ryan Boyle does better than anyone in the country is he manages their offense. He makes every player around him better.”
The beneficiary of Boyle’s game management Saturday was Doneger, who now has 28 goals this season. Cornell’s game plan was to try to prevent Princeton from taking shots within eight yards of the goal. Almost single handedly, Doneger thwarted that strategy.
“We tried to shut [Boyle] off a little bit, but when Timmy DeBlois was forced to slide off of him a little bit, he gets the ball and that’s his game,” said McClay.
“I knew that if he had those opportunities, he would finish them because he’s such a good crease guy, I’m just disappointed we gave him those opportunities,” Tambroni added.
Offensively, the Red was led by junior Andrew Collins, who scored two goals and three assists. Pittard, freshman Joe Boulukos, and sophomore Justin Redd each scored two goals, while senior J.P. Schalk had three assists.
Junior Brandon Ross saved nine on the game.
The main objective for the Red at this point, though, is to get past Saturday as soon as possible and concentrate on the season’s remaining two games.
“Once we leave the locker room,” said Collins, “all thoughts are going to Brown, starting right now.”
Archived article by Owen Bochner