March 15, 2004

M. Laxers Win Home Opener

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The clouds yielded to sunshine, and the wind gave way to warmer temperatures just prior to Saturday’s initial faceoff between the men’s lacrosse team and Stony Brook (0-3). The auspicious meteorological conditions foreshadowed a bright day for the No. 13 Red (2-1), which beat the Seawolves, 9-5, at Schoellkopf Field. But the game, Cornell’s first at home this season, was a silver lining to a black cloud: the team is happy with a win, but dissatisfied with its play throughout most of the contest.

“We’re happy that we won. Stony Brook did a great job of coming out today with a lot of heart. The coaching staff and team knew that this was going to be a tough opponent. But on the flipside, we’re not happy with the way we won,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “We’re happy with the win, but not the way we played. We bit and pieced together the win today, and it was more an individual effort than a team effort or team offense or defense.”

Cornell began the game in control after senior Scott Raasch won the faceoff at midfield. In its first game against Hofstra two weeks ago, Cornell launched its offensive attack within the first minute of the game. Saturday, the team didn’t put one in until 13 seconds before the end of the first quarter.

The score, a shot by junior Sean Greenhalgh off a feed from senior co-captain Andrew Collins, put Cornell up 1-0 and broke the stalemate which had beleaguered both teams during the first quarter.

“We were a little nervous. We never got into a great rhythm and our first few possessions were a little hurried. Also, we couldn’t pick up ground balls,” Greenhalgh said after the game. “We couldn’t really get too many offensive possessions. They worked really hard to defend us, but I think it was more our fault than theirs.”

The score brought the first quarter to a close with the Red up. To that point, the tempo of the game had remained constant, and time of possession appeared split between both teams, but the Red had momentum going into the second stanza.

Raasch won the second period’s opening faceoff, giving Cornell the ball to start, but Stony Brook managed to wrest control of it and clear the ball to the opposite end of the field where George LaFlare was waiting. The attack winged a shot past Cornell’s freshman goalie, Matt McMonagle, only 1:41 into the period.

Knotted at 1 apiece, both teams sensed the competition heating up — a rough faceoff personified the pressure building up between the two teams. Bodies went rolling, and feet flung into the air as the second quarter heated up.

When Stony Brook’s Adam Marksberry got called for offside, giving Cornell a 30 second man-up advantage, it seemed the Red might be able to capitalize with a goal. But the Red couldn’t convert, and the ball turned over. What followed was a series of end-to-end clears with hard shots and great saves by both teams.

McMonagle stood strong in goal, deflecting a bullet from a Stony Brook player’s stick, and the Seawolves’ Brendan Callahan held fast in his net as well, blocking shots from Collins and Greenhalgh in his own end.

Then, with only 1:36 left to play in the half, Stony Brook struck with a score from their scoring leader, Jason Cappadoro, who had three on the day.

“They played a good game. They were protecting the ball moving the ball around,” McMonagle said. “We knew what they were gonna do. And they seemed to know what we were gonna do, and they capitalized when I gave up rebounds.”

Junior attack Kevin Nee prevented the Red from going into halftime down, however, with his clutch goal just 23 seconds before the intermission. Unassisted, Nee took a pass behind the Seawolves’ goal and then wrapped around to the front for a shot.

The period ended and both teams returned to their locker rooms for some chalk talk. For the Red, the discussion was more of heart than Xs and Os.

“Halftime was a pretty emotional locker room. There’s nothing you can tell these guys that they don’t already understand. When its 2-to-2 against a team you feel like you should have been competing better against, you don’t have to say much,” Tambroni said. “The bottom line was that Stony Brook played harder than we did. We talked more about heart more than anything else.”

Whatever Tambroni said in the locker room must have worked because Cornell’s men returned to the field with fire, and the Red controlled the second half from the outset.

Two minutes and 46 seconds into the third quarter, sophomore midfielder Joe Boulukos got a turnover in his own end and raced the ball to midfield before passing to senior defenseman Tim DeBlois, who, in turn, passed to Greenhalgh, who found the back of the net for the second time.

Not long thereafter, Boulukos struck again, this time with a score of his own. Despite being in a man-down situation following a one-minute Cornell slashing penalty, Boulukos took the ball on his own and scored off the dodge 4:45 into the third. Cornell went ahead by two.

But Stony Brook bounced right back, scoring just a few seconds later to cut the lead to one, 4-3.

That was as close as the Seawolves would get in the remainder of the game, however. Boulukos added another tally with 4:11 to play in the third, and sophomore attack, Derek Haswell, dumped a shot over Stony Brook’s Callahan with 3:19 remaining in the period to put the Red ahead 6-3.

Despite having a lead entering the fourth quarter, three goals was certainly not enough insurance to rest, but the Red gave itself a larger cushion with three more scores. Nee struck first, firing a bullet into the Stony Brook net despite pressure from three Seawolf defenders. Boulukos next added his final score of the day, a hard line-drive into the corner from five yards out, and Cornell went up 8-4.

From then on, the Red played strong defense while adding one more goal of its own to cinch the win. On Cornell’s own end, Stony Brook was forced to work the ball around the perimeter, making an inside shot tough.

The Seawolves did manage one score, a shot by Cappadoro off LaFlare’s helper, but they failed to penetrate Cornell’s D any more. Regardless, Tambroni felt that the team could have performed better in front of its own net.

“Matt played well today. I’m disappointed he had to make so many saves. Defense played well at times, but some when it didn’t have to,” Tambroni added. “We only gave up 5 goals today, but we’re pretty disappointed with how we handled their opportunities. They had their chances, that’s for sure.”

Finally, with only 2:49 left in the game, Cornell got its last score from senior midfielder Mike Riorden, who found the upper left corner of the net to close the game, 9-5.

Though his squad more than doubled its offensive production from a week ago and reduced the number of goals it allowed by nine, Tambroni wants improvement.

“It’s a step in the right direction from Georgetown, but we know we have to get a lot better to beat the teams we have coming up on our schedule,” he said.

But the Red will not have much time to dwell on the loss, as it hosts Binghamton tomorrow afternoon. For Tambroni and his staff, the quick turnaround might be advantageous.

“We’ve got a whole lot o work to do on both ends, but not a lot of time to do it in,” he said. “Maybe that’s a good thing — they don’t need us ranting and raving down their heads.”

Archived article by Everett Hullverson