To the small crowd braving the snowstorm on Saturday afternoon, it looked as though the men’s lacrosse team was turning in a dominant performance in a scrimmage against the defending national champions, Johns Hopkins. And although the Red did outscore the Blue Jays, it was apparent to head coach Jeff Tambroni that a long season lies ahead before Cornell can truly celebrate.
“I think the difference is that [Johns Hopkins has] been there, they’ve won a national championship,” Tambroni said. “It’s a little bit tougher to get motivated for a scrimmage in front of a couple hundred people when you just played in front of thousands of people. Our guys have never been there – to them, this is a big game, even though it’s a scrimmage.”
The Red, ranked No. 8 in the Inside Lacrosse/Face-off Yearkbook preseason coaches poll, had its shining moments on offense against the No. 1 Blue Jays, most notably when Cornell scored two goals in the first 22 seconds of the second quarter – the first two scores of a 7-2 run.
“We’ve been working on transition a lot in practice,” said senior co-captain Joe Boulukos. “We get up for offense right away and try to push the pace, and if we’ve got an advantage in numbers we try to go right to the goal, and we had a couple of those.”
There were also positives to be found in the play of the Cornell defense, as both Tambroni and senior co-captain Cameron Marchant pointed to the stellar showing by junior goaltender Matt McMonagle as a crucial part of the Red’s success on the field.
“It’s always nice to have a rock in there. You know Mattie is going to make some saves that you couldn’t even dream of making, which is wonderful,” Marchant said. “But the thing that really stood out for me today was Matt’s hustle. I think there were probably three instances where he ran right out to the endline to get balls back for us, and that just shows how talented he is, but at the same time how hard he works. Having him there certainly gives us confidence.”
McMonagle anchors a defense that showed the most growing pains for the Red on Saturday. Cornell – which lost 11 players to graduation at the end of the 2005 season – frequently had trouble making defensive clears against the Blue Jays, with at least one turnover resulting in a goal by Johns Hopkins.
“We struggled a little bit today,” Marchant said. “[Clearing is] certainly a vital facet of our game. [That’s] the type of thing where communication is essential, we really just have to work through a little more.”
“There’s a lot of things – like clearing the ball, like running the ball, like facing off – that we just fell way short in, that we know we’re going to have to do a much better job in the future if we’re going to have success against other teams of that caliber,” Tambroni said.
With two scrimmages under its belt, Cornell will look to take another step forward when it faces Loyola in Baltimore, Md., next Saturday.
“I think we took the next step from last week. We did not have a great week of practice, so I’m a little bit surprised by some of the areas that I thought we had somewhat success [in] today,” Tambroni said. “But I think this team has a long way to go, and I think they understand that. I don’t think they’re going to bank this year’s success on this scrimmage or last week’s scrimmage.”
Both Tambroni and Boulukos anticipate the leadership of the senior class to play a key role in how the team develops as the season progresses.
“It went well today, but it was just a scrimmage. We have a lot of work to do. [Our] first game is two weeks away, so once the real season starts we’ll see how things go,” Boulukos said. “We’ve seen what we can do, we know what our capabilities are, and hopefully if [the seniors] lead the way and work every day things will go well this year.”
Archived article by Olvia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor