After tying Princeton for the Ivy championship and amassing an overall 9-4 record last season, the men’s lacrosse team has high expectations for exceeding those marks this year. Realistically, though, the Red also knows that it lost 11 letterman last year, including one full-time starter, all three captains, and the best defenseman in the world. To say the least, graduation took its toll on the Red’s roster last season; yet the team feels confident that its seven seasoned veterans and talented newcomers will fill the voids to make this year’s squad just as competitive.
Matt McMonagle, a freshman, is the youngest starter on the Red’s roster. He stepped into the lineup this year as rookie after winning the spot from senior Brandon Ross, who started for the team in goal last season. Though McMonagle has started all three of Cornell’s games this season, Ross played the entire second half against Georgetown, and he will probably share time protecting the net in many games this season.
“It’s a pretty competitive matchup, but both guys have handled the situation extremely well,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “They’ve both been extremely supportive of each other and very confident in their own right. It hasn’t shattered Brandon’s confidence that Matt’s been starting now, and the fact that Brandon’s nipping at Matt’s heels hasn’t bothered Matt either.”
So far this year McMonagle has made 33 saves while allowing 26 goals, but, according to Tambroni, he improves with each game.
“As a freshman, we expected a little bit of a shaky start, but we hope he’s kind of shaken off a little bit of the early season rust,” he said. “We’ll look for Matt to lead us in goal not only this season but for the rest of his career.”
When Ryan McClay ’03 graduated in May, he left big shoes to fill in Cornell’s defense. The Ivy Player of the Year and most valuable defenseman of the 2003 World Games stopped countless attackers and helped lead Cornell during his four years on the hill. It may be impossible to replace him, but the squad comes pretty close.
Two defensemen, senior Tim DeBlois and junior Kyle Georgalas, will anchor Cornell’s backfield. Both players, particularly DeBlois, saw significant time last season, and both were elected captains of the team this year.
“They’re the hardest working guys we have on the team,” Tambroni said. “Tim DeBlois gives us a legitimate cover guy, someone who matches up on the other team’s best player, typically their best athlete. And Kyle has grown considerably over the last couple of years. He’s a tireless worker, and it’s refreshing to see a young man with his focus and drive.”
Rounding out the group will be junior Casey Stevenson and sophomore Mike Pisco. Stevenson, an Ithaca High School grad, has started the last two games for the team and has great range and an aggressive slide. Pisco, on the other hand, plays balls well off the ground and feels comfortable with both long and short sticks.
“Between those guys, we have a solid group,” Tambroni said.
Senior Scott Raasch will take center stage as the Red’s faceoff man this spring. Last year, Raasch had a .550 faceoff winning percentage and four points. He’s on an even better clip this season, having won 60-of-95 in the past three games for a .583 faceoff percentage.
“When he’s good, we’re typically good, and when he struggles, we’re usually struggling too, and we have to work that much harder to get the ball,” Tambroni said of Raasch’s importance to the team. “We’re going to rely heavily on Scotty’s shoulders to have some success, and, as a senior, I’m sure he’s going to do a great job.”
Defensively, seniors Doug Needham and George Bioardi, and sophomore Cam Merchant will hold fast to keep encroaching offenses out of their end of the field. Needham will make the transition this year from short to long stick, which will increase his presence on the field and enhance his role in coverage. And Bioardi, the team’s fastest player, will give the Red speed in the middle to track down attackmen.
Freshman Andrew Clayton and sophomore Dave Bush will also work their way into the lineup as backups for the first unit.
Offensively, junior Justin Redd and sophomore Joe Boulukos will lead the squad downfield. Redd made the honorable mention All-Ivy squad a year ago after racking up 12 points and scooping 20 groundballs. Boulukus, who started as a freshman in his rookie year on the hill, scored 12 times and had 2 assists as well. Last summer, the Huntington, N.Y. native also received an invitation to play in the Under-19 World Games but had to withdraw due to injury.
“Justin has been our most consistent player over the years. He’s gone against a lot of great longsticks and gained a lot of valuable experience. We expect a lot out of him this year,” Tambroni said. “Joe is our best dodging midfielder with an extremely explosive shot both left and right handed.”
Freshmen Brian Clayton and Casey Lewis, and seniors Michael Riordan and Ian Rosenberger may also see time on this line.
Two familiar names return this season to continue what they have done for the past three: score goals. Senior co-captian Andrew Collins and junior Sean Greenhalgh are a slick and dangerous combination that has produced dozens of goals for the Red since the two began playing alongside each other.
“Andrew is without question our team leader. He’s a wonderful leader, a hard worker, and comes to play every day,” Tambroni said. “He’s our quarterback of the offense, and he works with Sean [Greenhalgh] like they’ve played their entire lives together.”
Together, Collins and Greenhalgh have already notched nice goals and 10 assists, with most of the feeds coming from Collins, and the scores from Greenhalgh.
“Sean is as good as we’ve had and as good as is out there,” Tambroni said. “He’s continued to get better, which is pretty amazing for a guy that scored over 80 goals in his first two years.”
Junior Kevin Nee and senior Dave Pittard will also receive significant playing time in every game. According to Tambroni, Nee could be the Red’s most improved player, and his stats this year prove it: he had 12 goals in 12 games last year but has already found the back of the net five times in three spiels this year. Though his numbers have not been spectacular yet this season, Pittard proved himself last year with 22 goals and 11 assists.
Currently, the Red stands 2-1 and has a top 20 national ranking. That ranking, along with the number in the Red’s win column, will only grow as the team’s cohesiveness improves.
Tambroni and his staff will focus on filling the gaps left by his all-star seniors while also trying to meld his veterans and rookies into on unit to make this a great team.
“The goal for us is just to gain chemistry on gameday,” Tambroni concluded. “With this group here, we hope the team is going to be pretty exciting.”
Archived article by Everett Hullverson