For Cornell men’s lacrosse coach Jeff Tambroni and his team, Saturday’s win over No. 20 Brown was just another step towards higher goals — including winning a national championship.
But the Red’s perfect 6-0 league record this season has also signaled a new reign at the top of the Ivy standings.
Cornell, which earned its first outright league title since 1987, got yet another stellar performance by senior attackman Kevin Nee, as the No. 4 Red (9-2, 6-0 Ivy) defeated the Bears (6-5, 2-3), 11-6, at Stevenson Field.
“I think [winning the league outright] is a wonderful accomplishment,” Tambroni said. “I think it is a testament to the commitment that our guys made all year long.”
While the Red’s prolific offense this season has been highlighted — it has found the back of the cage 13.67 times per game in Ivy action — its defense has also held league opponents to a stingy 5.83 goals per game.
In Saturday’s encounter, the Red’s defensive unit was crucial in the game’s eventual result, as the Bears only converted 1-of-7 man-up opportunities, where Brown ranked second in the nation. In addition, Cornell held the home team scoreless for over 26 minutes, during which the Red was able to go on a 5-0 run.
“If I had to pick a side of the ball that was probably in direct relation to our success on Saturday, I would pick our defensive unit,” Tambroni said. “You’ve got to credit the defense for making us feel that we were still in the game no matter what was going on.”
Similar to last weekend’s game against Princeton, the Red got on the scoreboard first, after Tewaaraton candidate, junior Joe Boulukos, found the back of the cage off a feed from senior attackman Sean Greenhalgh at 12:31 in the first period. Junior attackman Derek Haswell doubled the Red’s lead off a fast break over five minutes later, scoring from the right side after a pass from Nee.
However, the Bears would answer with two goals of their own within 47 seconds of each other through scores from Britton Derkac and Dave Madiera. And while Greenhalgh was able to extend his goal scoring streak to 30 consecutive games at 2:50, Brown’s Chris Mucciolo tied the score with 15 seconds left in the period to tie the game at three after one.
Mucciolo again struck with 10:49 left in the second quarter to give Brown a 4-3 lead, but his shot would be the last time the Bears would find the back of the net until the fourth quarter, as the Red took hold of the game.
Nee, last week’s Ivy League Player of the Week after his seven goal, one assist performance against Princeton, started a personal streak of three consecutive goals when he first tied the game up with 2:51 left in the quarter, before senior Justin Redd found the Canton, N.Y., native again less than a minute later. Cornell took a 5-4 lead going into halftime and with the assist, Redd is the 30th Cornell player to record 100 career points.
While the Red was ahead at the break, Tambroni said that his team — which has been known for its grit and toughness throughout the season — was flat in the first half.
“We played awful in the first half,” Tambroni said. “It was the first game in a long time going into halftime, saying that we were out-worked. You have to give Brown credit, I think they played with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion on the field.”
The Red drew first blood in the second half when a Nee shot from the right side found the back of the cage at 6:42 in the third quarter. Haswell would continue the Red’s scoring with two goals of his own to close out the period — giving Cornell a 5-0 run before Brown’s Kyle Wailes finally put the Bears on the board 50 seconds into the final quarter.
By this time, Cornell had a grip on the game, keeping much of the possession and receiving timely saves by sophomore goaltender Matt McMonagle, who stopped four shots in the fourth. The Red iced the result through goals by Redd, freshman John Glynn and Nee to close out the game.
Haswell recorded a hat trick and Redd added a goal and two assists. This was the first time this season that Cornell was outshot in a game, with Brown holding a 31-28 advantage.
While Greenhalgh and Boulukos — two of Cornell’s largest threats — did not light up the board because of the close attention given to them by the Brown defense, Tambroni said that contributions from guys including Nee and Haswell have made the team’s offense extremely potent.
“If those guys continue to play with that type of confidence and ability to produce, I think it’s going to make our offensive that much more effective,” Tambroni said. “Those guys are a big reason why we’ve been so successful.”
The Red will put its seven game winning streak on the line when it hosts Hobart on Friday evening at Schoellkopf Field in its regular season finale.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Assistant Sports Editor