Coming off a convincing 16-6 win over Harvard last Saturday, the men’s lacrosse team (5-2, 3-0 Ivy) hopes to accomplish a feat tonight which has not been done by a Cornell squad since 1987 — defeat No. 7 Syracuse (5-3) at the Carrier Dome.
As has been the case in previous encounters, the Orange, which is coming off a four-game winning streak after losing in overtime to No. 1 Johns Hopkins on March 18, will be a stern test for Cornell.
“I think our guys understand that this is a much different game than most or all of the games on our schedule,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “This is a team that every team probably circles on their schedule and the reason why Syracuse is so good is because they compete against those teams day in and day out and still find a way to win.”
Syracuse, the defending national champion, has most recently defeated Loyola in Baltimore, 12-6, on Saturday, behind a three-goal performance by freshman attacker Mike Leveille. The Orange’s schedule this season has been far from easy, as it has faced seven ranked opponents in its eight games. Prior to beating Loyola, the Orange took care of both then-No. 15 Princeton and current No. 15 Hobart, before knocking off No. 16 Brown at home.
While Leveille is the Orange’s leading scorer, Tambroni recognizes the variety of threats his team faces. Along with Leveille are juniors Brett Bucktooth (seven goals, 13 assists) and Brian Crockett (15 G, six A) and second-leading scorer Greg Rommel (16 G, two A).
“They can hurt you in so many ways,” Tambroni said. “I think [my] team really has to be on our toes and we have to bring our A-game on and off the ball. [Syracuse] does things that typical teams don’t do, they make plays that you typically see on the highlight film at the end of the year one or two times. This team does that routinely.”
Similarly to its potent offense, the Orange is also talented in protecting its own net. Leading Syracuse’s defensive unit is senior goaltender Jay Pfeifer, who was named to the NCAA All-Tournament team last year and currently boasts an 8.95 goals against average this season.
“Defensively, I think they’ve been pretty consistent throughout [the season],” Tambroni said. “Pfeifer has proven that he is one of the best goalies in the country and I think they’ve got a pretty good group of veterans that play in front of him that are extremely athletic.”
To accomplish its goal of winning at the Carrier Dome, Tambroni said that the Red must not only focus on a set of specific individuals, but rather center its attention on its own gritty team play on both ends of the field.
“We can’t make this a matchup of individuals. It’s got to be our team offensive system against their team defensive system, and our team defensive system against their team offensive system,” Tambroni said.
The Red showed flashes on Saturday against Harvard of coming together as a unit both on the offensive and defensive end. Twelve-of-the-16 Red goals were assisted, as the team scored almost willingly against the then-eighth best defensive unit in the nation. Cornell was led by the performances of senior attackmen Sean Greenhalgh and Kevin Nee, who combined for nine goals and four assists against the Crimson.
Still, because of Syracuse’s extraordinary talent and athleticism, along with the prospect of facing the Orange in the spacious Carrier Dome, Tambroni and his players know that tonight’s game will be a totally unique and difficult challenge — one in which the Cornell has to use intelligent and team-oriented play in order to be victorious.
“We’re always looking forward to playing Syracuse whether it is here or at the dome,” said senior co-captain Kyle Georgalas.
“Syracuse has a lot of history in their lacrosse program and playing in the dome is always a big thing, but I think that we should focus for this game just like we would for any other game and worry about ourselves and everything will work out,” Nee said.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Assistant Sports Editor