April 25, 2003

M. Laxers Look to Break Brown Jinx

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Junior attack Andrew Collins has 47 points. Senior defenseman Ryan McClay has 52 groundballs. Cornell has seven wins and just four losses. But as men’s lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni will tell you, numbers don’t mean everything, especially when you’re playing Brown.

“I think Brown is extremely capable, and what we’ve asked our guys to do is to throw the records away,” said Tambroni. “Brown being 4-8 and us being 7-4, I don’t think it comes into effect this weekend because of the last two years.”

For the past two years, Brown (4-8, 1-3 Ivy) has topped the men’s lacrosse team (7-4, 4-1). Last season’s contest was a double-OT thriller in which Brown’s Chas Gessner ended Cornell’s Ivy title hopes. With a win, the Red would have shared the 2002 title with Princeton.

This season two things are notably different: there will be no Gessner, and there will be no chance of sharing the Ivy title.

Brown will play tomorrow’s game without Gessner, who has traded his lacrosse stick for an opportunity in the NFL. While the Bears’ record might imply that their midfielder was the backbone of the team, he has actually been replaced.

Setting the pace for Brown’s offense are senior Jon Thompson and sophomore Chazz Woodson. Both have carried the team at different points throughout the season, providing the Bears with a necessary winning spark.

Thompson, in particular has posted some of the top numbers in the league. He’s currently ranked No. 2 in Ivy scoring and has been averaging just over three points per game.

Thompson’s most stunning performance to date came in a 12-11 loss to Georgetown, where the senior single-handedly kept Brown alive by scoring seven goals. Before meeting Thompson, the Hoyas were the best defense in the nation, giving up an average of just five-and-a-half goals per game.

Woodson, while not as explosive as Thompson, has still been active in the Brown offensive system. In several games, the sophomore has been the Bears’ assist leader, and when he’s not, it’s usually because he’s leading the team in scoring.

“They’re main initiators, they’re main threats,” Tambroni said of Brown’s scoring duo. “Both pose legitimate threats to our defense every time they touch the ball. If we’re going to have any success, we’ve got to really limit their touches.”

As for the other difference in tomorrow’s game, Cornell’s loss to Princeton last weekend has all but sealed the title for the No. 2 Tigers. Still, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For the third straight year, Cornell heads into a match up with Brown directly after a loss to Princeton. While past feelings may have played into the Red’s failures, this year, the team’s attitude is different.

“I think this year has been noticeably different in practice,” said Tambroni. “I think our guys have shaken off that Princeton loss quicker than we have in the last couple years.”

That is promising for Cornell, especially since it’ll face strong goaltending for the second week in a row. Last year, Brown’s Mike Levin had 17 saves against the Red. And while Gessner might have gotten most of the attention with his OT goal, this year, the buzz is about Levin being the Bears’ top player.

“Any time you’re going against a team who’s best player is probably their goalie, they’ll always be a dangerous team,” Tambroni said. “Whether they’re playing well or stuttering a little bit, they’re always in every game because he has the capabilities of keeping them in every game defensively.”

While clutch midfielders, top goaltending, and the Tiger blues may have held the Red in check before, this year, things look to be different.

“I believe in my heart that everybody on this team is extremely excited to have a chance to go back and play Brown again. I think that’s going to be the difference,” Tambroni noted. “We’re not taking this one lightly.”

Archived article by Matt Janiga