May 7, 2004

M. Lax Plays for Home Field

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Following wins over Ivy League rivals Princeton and Brown, the No. 9 men’s laxers (8-3) have guaranteed themselves at least a share of the league crown and a bid to the NCAA tournament. Despite the record and playoff assurance however, the team will not take this evening’s game against No. 17 Hobart lightly, as home-field playoff advantage and critical momentum may be on the line.

Although 8-6 Hobart stands 46-76-4 against the Red all-time, it is coming off a narrow 9-8 loss to No. 2 Navy and has managed to keep close games with top teams all season. For the Statesmen, this game may mean the difference between finishing its year with a quality win over an strong opponent. But for Cornell, victory has far greater implications, as the Red aims to bring its game to a higher level.

“It was a little bit of a concern after our win last game, that we wouldn’t be able to get ready for this next one,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “But as soon as we showed our guys who we were up against, they realized that we were up against a good team.”

Last year, Cornell defeated Hobart easily in a 14-5 contest, but this year’s finale may prove to be a different proposition.

“Hobart is as good as anybody we’ve faced all season, and we’ve had some lucky breaks. We’re four goals away from being 1-5 in the Ivy League, as opposed to being a 5-1 team, as we are now,” Tambroni said. “Hobart is the same way. They’ve played some of the top teams in the country to one point. Watching their films, it has not been difficult for our guys to respect them, their team, because they are a very talented lacrosse team, a team that plays with a lot of heart.”

The Red has also proved to be a driven team in its past two contests. This effort has been emphasized by players including senior co-captain Andrew Collins, who became the second consecutive Cornell player to be named Ivy League Player of the Week when he was recognized for his outstanding game-high five points against Brown in the team’s last league match. Collins has also proven to be one of the Red’s most consistent performers, and his 20 goals currently ranks second on the team.

The main threat to the Red’s positive play is in the form of two Hobart players: Mark Williamson and Nate Hill. In addition, Hobart goalie Dan Valente was named RACA co-athlete of the week for his 28 saves in the Patriot League championship tournament. Hill and Williamson have combined for 50 goals and 44 assists on the season and Tambroni is wary of their presence.

“They have two fantastic attackmen that are as good as anybody we’ve seen to date, and they have a couple of middies that are as good as anybody we’ve seen. As a team, we need to try to limit that,” he said.

Although many of the players are looking at their game tonight as just another game, Tambroni, a former Hobart player, has a slightly different perspective. While he enjoys visiting his alma mater and looks forward to seeing familiar people in Geneva, N.Y., his main goal is clear.

“I enjoy going back and seeing old friends, colleagues, and administrators. I owe Hobart a great deal for everything that its done for me as a coach and as a person,” Tambroni said. “But I don’t put any more stock in this game because of that, because my allegiances are definitely here at Cornell.”

Regardless of the team’s recent victorious performances and league-leading statistics, the Red realizes that this is not a game to take lightly.

“It’s an upstate rival that plays with a lot of passion, and they have a lot to play for right now. Our conversation with our guys earlier this week was that they had a lot to bring,” Tambroni said. “As important as what we’ve done in the past few weeks has been, it’s extremely important that we win this game.”

Archived article by Everett Hullverson
Sun Assistant Sports Editor