Despite jumping to an early 5-3 lead in its season opener against Hofstra Saturday, the men’s lacrosse team found itself down two goals at the half and in need of a spark to reignite its stymied offense. Junior Sean Greenhalgh gave the team just what it needed with his leadoff third-quarter goal that sparked Cornell (1-0) to an 8-4 second half run and, ultimately, a 14-12 road win over the Pride (0-1). Greenhalgh found the back of the net four times in the win while teammate Joe Boulukos, a Long Island native, recorded a game-high five goals, and senior Andrew Collins had five points, including four assists.
“Last year, we lost to them, and it was a pretty discouraging afternoon for the Cornell lacrosse program,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni about the Red’s loss to the Pride last season. “We had a bad taste in our mouths going down there this year, and the guys were excited to play and represent Cornell better this year. And we did. The guys played well.”
Cornell, ranked No. 12 before the game, came in an underdog to the No. 11 Pride, but the Red’s blitzing offense netted a goal and within the first minute of play and set the tone of the match.
The score, a Collins-to-Greenhalgh combo, came only 49 seconds into regulation and put the Pride on its heels.
“Our strategy was to get up early. We needed to score goals because they’re an offensively dangerous team. Our intention was to get a little rhythm, to get some faceoffs and get some more offensive time, certainly more than we had last year,” continued Tambroni. “When we scored early like that, it got us off to a good start.”
Less than two minutes later, the raid continued as junior midfielder Justin Redd slid a shot past Hofstra goalie Matthew Southard at 2:11, putting the Red up 2-0.
But just after the midpoint of the first quarter, Hofstra got in the game, as Ryan Lucas scored on an assist from John Orsen.
Cornell capitalized on its only extra-man opportunity of the afternoon shortly thereafter, however, when junior Kevin Nee scored off another Collins assist with 6:21 left in the first quarter. The goal gave Cornell a 3-1 advantage, and each team scored twice more to close the first quarter with a 5-3 score.
The lead did not last long, however, as the Pride bounced right back in the second quarter with a five-goal showing to go up 8-5. Boulukos stopped the run with his first goal of the day, a 15-yard blast off an assist from Redd, with just under three minutes left in the half. But with no other scores before halftime and the score 8-6 in Hofstra’s favor, the Red faced an uphill battle to regain the lead after intermission.
“We went up early and saw a three goal lead slip away, which was pretty discouraging, but I never saw the look of defeat on our guys’ faces. We never got down,” Tambroni continued. “We adjusted some of our slides a little bit at the half, and it worked.”
After the halftime chalk-talk, the Red returned to the field to meet the challenge head on and scored the first goal of the second half. The score, an unassisted Greenhalgh blast, came only 25 seconds after the teams returned to the field. Cornell still trailed in the match, but Greenhalgh’s solo performance boosted the Red’s morale, and the team rallied for six more goals before the game’s final stanza.
“Sean is without question our go-to guy in the offense, and there’s no doubt that the goal really helped the team,” Tambroni said. “It was nice to see that our leaders took control and gave the team something to look to.”
Boulukos scored the team’s next two goals, putting the Red up 9-8. Both Greenhalgh and Boulukos netted one more third-quarter goal apiece before Hofstra’s John Keysor scored to stop the stretch of six consecutive Cornell tallies and brought the Pride within three.
Boulukos added his fifth goal of the contest exactly one minute after Keysor’s score to give Cornell a three-goal lead, and freshman Brian Clayton followed with his first career goal to give Cornell its largest lead of the game at 13-9.
Yet the Pride resurged, cutting the deficit in half with two goals from Keysor in the final 1:15 of the third quarter and one from teammate Tom Brewer in the fourth to bring the game dangerously close at 13-12.
Fortunately, Collins gave the Red some breathing room, scoring the game’s final goal with 8:31 left to play. After that, Cornell contained the Hofstra attack and controlled the transition game to hang on for the win.
“The entire game was back and forth and pretty pressure-filled. But I never saw a look of fear or concern in our guys’ eyes. It was a look of confidence. It was confidence that we could shoot the ball,” Tambroni said.
Though Cornell’s offensive players stole the show, freshman goaltender Matt McMongale, starting his first collegiate game, played a major role in the victory. The netminder stopped Hofstra’s final three shots on goal and finished the day with 12 saves.
“Matt’s a freshman, but he started to set a little bit in the second half,” Tambroni continued. “When he did, he played very well.”
The Pride outshot the Red, 43-38, but Cornell got a huge boost on faceoffs, winning 20 out of 28, including a 17-of-23 performance from senior Scott Raasch.
The win was Cornell’s first in a season opener since 2001, and the contest marked the first February game in program history.
The laxers return to action on Saturday, March 6, when they travel to Washington D.C. to take on Georgetown — the team that handed Cornell a 13-6 loss in last year’s season opener.
“We’re going to be a very confident group coming into Monday’s practice, but our job as a coaching staff is to bring them back down to earth and start focusing on Georgetown,” Tambroni concluded. “We played decent at times this weekend, but I’m not convinced we’re a great lacrosse team. I’m not going to put too much stock in this first win. But I am proud of how the guys worked. We’ve taken the first step, and it’s a step in the right direction.”
Archived article by Everett Hullverson