April 30, 2003

M. Lax Seniors Remember Seasons of Success

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On Friday night, nine seniors on the men’s lacrosse team will step onto Schoellkopf Field one last time. They will hear their last rendition of, “Give my regards to Davey,” they will have their last huddle around the symbolic No. 10, and they will play in their final regular season game.

In four years, seniors Adam Buttermore, Nate Haswell, Ryan McClay, Jarrett McGovern, Chris Morea, Jon Noel, Frank Sands, J.P. Schalk and Chris Viola have turned a fledging 1999, 7-6 Cornell lacrosse team into an a national contender and Ivy League champion.

This is the team that won 35 games and lost just 18. It beat perennial powerhouse Syracuse twice, both during the Orange’s national championship seasons, and handing the Orangemen their only loss of the 2000 season. It has earned two post-season berths and is currently fighting for a third as these seniors have helped continually move the program up in the national rankings. Most importantly, they have formed a friendship and brotherhood that will last long after this season is over.

This friendship has survived through freshman year thunderstorms and tornado warnings, when they were finally kicked off the field by a local police officer, and through Morea’s return from injury after he decided to take out an opposing player as opposed to getting beat and allowing the team into a fast break. There were also the numerous road trips and Schalk’s memories of forgetting equipment freshman year, 7 a.m. Friday morning practices, and the relaxing breakfasts afterwards.

This year alone, the seniors have grown even closer by finally obtaining the one goal they had been working towards since walking the fall of their freshman year — an Ivy League championship. During this season, these seniors have shared their book club, senior speakers and a pride that they play for one of the top teams in the country. And again, most importantly, they have learned that they have a closeness that can not be found on other teams.

Morea may have best explained the bond they have when he spoke of a high school friend who currently plays for Harvard and is considering joining the Marine Corps. He told Morea that he wanted to join because he wants to be a part of something that is bigger than himself, something that everyone believes in. At that moment Morea noted that he realized just how close the team is.

This tightness has led the seniors to push the lacrosse program to great lengths and head coach Jeff Tambroni praised them saying, “When they came in, the program was in OK shape, but I think when they leave, our program is better because of them, their effort, because of their time, because of their personalities and because of their commitment to Cornell first and the Cornell lacrosse program second.”

One of the team’s tri-captains is McClay, a two-year captain and three-year All-American, who earned first team honors last year. During this past summer, he played for the U.S. National team at the 2002 World Lacrosse Championships, where he was named to the All-World Team and honored as the tournament’s most valuable defender. Last season he was voted the team’s defensive player of the year for the second straight season.

“It’s helped me tremendously as a player to have the top defender in the country to look up to, and he’s not just a great lacrosse player, he’s a great leader on and off the field,” junior Tim DeBlois said of McClay. “Having a personality on the field like that is really an intangible that is going to be tough to replace next year.”

Schalk is the second tri-captain that coaches and teammates alike call “the quiet leader.” Sophomore Sean Greenhalgh noted that, “He always seems like that guy that when we need a goal or we need a big play, he’s the guy that is going to make that in the offensive end. For lack of his vocal leadership, he definitely makes it up in his work ethic.”

Schalk — a four year starter — has been a constant contributor, adding 20 points his freshman season and 16 his sophomore year, despite sustaining a knee injury. Last season he was third on the team with 15 assists and 14 goals, and has already recorded 17 points this year.

Morea, the third tri-captain, has been a constant contributor during his four years on the Hill, despite continually battling injuries. He has played on both sides of the field for the Red and is also an emotional leader of the team.

“Chris brings an unrivaled passion to the game and just on that note he’s just exciting for anything we’re doing,” said Deblois. “It could be the hardest work out of the year and he still has a smile on his face yelling and trying to support everybody.”

Back up goalkeeper Adam Buttermore was one of the few members of the Red that was not recruited out of high school, walking onto the team his freshman year, and serving as the backup to Justin Cynar ’02 and junior Brandon Ross. Although he has not seen a lot of game time experience, he is a testament to dedication, hard work, and demonstrates a true passion for the sport.

“[Adam] doesn’t have the greatest talent out of everyone on the team, but he has the greatest amount of heart,” said Greenhalgh. “As a back up goalie he sees a lot of balls during the day and the fact that he just stays in there and takes them, is a credit to himself.”

Haswell was also a walk on, and like Buttermore, is extremely dedicated. A mechanical engineer, Haswell has had to adapt to an engineer’s course load and the time demands of the lacrosse program. Continually earning playing time over his career, he has broken out this year, scoring his first goal in the Dartmouth game.

“He is destined for great things when he gets out of here because of his ability to stick with it and deal with the distractions off the field, and do such a great job on the field,” said Tambroni. “Through thick and thin I think he has done a tremendous job keeping his head above water and succeeding.”

Jarrett McGovern has been continually plagued by injuries his four years at Cornell. Despite the setbacks, he has never wavered in his support for the program. He brings a light hearted humor to everything he does — he mentioned he would like to join the Professional Bowling Association following graduation — and ample inspiration to his teammates — his recruiting video has now become routine bus watching material and good luck on road trips.

Greenhalgh recognized this dedication saying, “He has been plagued by injuries throughout his career so I don’t think he has every gotten the chance he wanted. But he’s there all the time and that alone says something about the kid, that no matter how bad things get … if you make a commitment and you keep it. And that’s the biggest thing you can say about Jarrett is that he makes a commitment to everything he does.”

Jon Noel, is another individual that has not see a lot of playing time during his four years, but has been a very dedicated team member.

“He’s a hard worker, but he gives his heart and soul to this team,” explains Greenhalgh. “I don’t think Johnny has gotten the credit that he deserves. If you were to see him at practice, he just seems like a kid that makes plays. We have a scout group that runs the other team’s offense and he always seems like a guy making a lot of plays and sticks his shot in the back of the net.”

Frank Sands has been a four year starter and has become one of the team’s top defensive players. Starting out as a long stick defenseman, Sands soon switched things up, becoming one of the best short-stick defenders in the league.

“He’s truly been one of our unsung heroes. I think he is one of the best short-stick defenders in the country. He is very underrated and very over looked by most teams,” said Tambroni. “If you ask our guys, he’s done an awful lot and at any given time in the defensive end he has been our most valuable defender because of what he does with a short

Chris Viola is the final senior that makes up the Red roster this season. A contributor all four years, he has dealt with injuries and has become a strong long stick defender for the Red.

“He comes to work every day,” explains Greenhalgh. “He plays opposite me every day and he has made me such a better player just because of how he plays in practice, he takes everything game like and sometimes you might want him to stop or to lighten up a bit, but everything he does just makes our team better, and personally makes me better.”

DeBlois is also thankful for the senior class’s efforts, and noted how they best embody the program’s mantra.

“One of the biggest mottos of our team that Coach Tambroni is always preaching is, ‘Leave something better than how you found it.’ I think that is a motto that sums up the senior class,” he said. “They came into a program and in four years they were always thinking with that in the back of their minds. If they can look back over their career, I can definitely say, I bet they could say, and I know the whole team could say that these guys found the program in a certain state and they have definitely left it better than they found it.”

Archived article by Kristen Haunss