April 23, 2004

Laxers Prepare for Pivotal Game Against Princeton

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In what may be the pivotal game in the race for the Ivy League lacrosse crown, the No. 11 men’s lacrosse team will travel to Princeton (7-2, 3-0 Ivy) to take on the Tigers in Class of 1952 Stadium tomorrow at noon. Cornell (6-3, 3-1 Ivy) enters the game following its last-second defeat of Dartmouth last weekend, a win that boosted the team’s chances of getting at least a share of the Ivy title.

The Tigers are riding high with four straight wins, and they also have a historical advantage against the Red, winning the last eight and 35 of 73 all-time meetings between the teams . A win for Cornell in this game and another versus Brown next weekend would clinch a share of the Ivy title and ensure an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs. A loss would lay a path for Princeton to cruise the crown.

“This game is extremely important. If we’re going to have a chance to hang on to any Ivy League hopes, this game is extremely important,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “Any time you compete with a team like Princeton, who’s undefeated, a win is twofold: one it’s essential in the Ivy League race, but it’s also important in the playoff race as well. It’s a quality win.”

Last year, the Tigers beat the Red 17-9 in Schoellkopf, and the Red has gone 0-4 in its last trips to Princeton. Despite the unfavorable record and the unenviable task of prying a win out of the Tiger’s den, the Red feels confident the team will rise to the task.

” I think regardless of records, when you go into Ivy League games there seems to be a bit more riding on the outcome,” Tambroni said. “I think you could get wrapped up in the outcome of the game — going against Princeton with 9 Ivy League championships and all the national championships that they’ve one — it tends to detract from the gameplan and what you need to do to be successful. Its gonna be a matter of us focusing on what we do and concentrating on our success in the past.”

So far this year, that success has included several record setting performances. Senior co-captain Andrew Collins moved into ninth place overall on the Red’s all-time scoring list with 138 and took over control of the fifth-place spot on the assist board with his 86th. Junior Sean Greenhalgh also reached the century club with his 100th point, and the attack has been named to the Tewaaraton Watch List, which is comprised of the nation’s top lacrosse players.

Regardless, the Red knows it will have to bring out its full arsenal to beat this powerful Princeton squad.

“We have to play hard. We don’t have to play our very best game to beat Princeton, but you have to play pretty close to it,” Tambroni said. “They’re just so well coached, and they do have a lot of talent on their team. They’ve been able to kind of pull away from the rest of the Ivy League. While the rest of us kind of beat each other up, Princeton tends to be a different animal.”

The Tigers will defend their turf with a dangerous attack, which has produced 97 goals, and a stout defense that has relinquished only 76. Moreover, the Tiger’s roster is home to the current Ivy player of the week, Ryan Boyle, and the Ivy rookie of the week, Peter Tambroni. This game is also the team’s senior day and the Tigers’ last home game of the spring, giving the team extra incentive — if any were necessary — to come out fighting.

“If you’re going to beat them, you have to erase your mind of any outside distractions and you have to have a clear focus on your game plan and focus on what you have to do as a team and as individuals to be successful,” Tambroni said. “I think in terms of how Princeton stacks up, they have as much talent as Syracuse. They have an attack as good as Michael Powell, he’s one of the best in the country. They have as much talent as any team in the country, and they’re so well coached and so well disciplined, that it will be a difficult battle, but one that our guys are ready to take.”

To win, Cornell must improve its ground game, control possession, and take better shots. Against the Green last weekend, the Red failed to lead in any statistical category except scoring, dropping to Dartmouth in critical areas as ground balls, clears, faceoffs and shots.

“We were fortunate pull off the win against Dartmouth with four seconds left. We only played 1:45 on offense in the third quarter of that game. We were just atrocious in the third quarter,” Tambroni said. “Just maintaining possession and giving ourselves the opportunity to get some rhythm going will be key. Faceoffs will be key too. Princeton has two very capable guys at the faceoff, both big and strong. And, when we get the ball in the offensive end, we have to be smart. They’re so good defensively that they force you into turnovers.”

Outcome aside, the contest will showcase two of the best lacrosse programs and one of the most heated rivalries in the country with the Ivy championship at stake.

“We still have a long road to travel after this Princeton game, but we try to put all our eggs in the each basket we’ve traveled to,” Tambroni said. “They’re out to win the League as well.”

Archived article by Everett Hullverson
Sun Assistant Sports Editor