One of the men’s lacrosse team’s goals this season was to be undefeated heading into Spring Break. Mission accomplished.
Despite not practicing on Monday because of the weather and having to deal with players taking prelims throughout the week, the Red (4-0) handily dispatched Lehigh (4-2) by the score of 12-3 at Schoellkopf Field yesterday afternoon. Solid defense and hat tricks from junior David Mitchell and senior Derek Haswell put the game away for the Red.
The win marked the first time head coach Jeff Tambroni has gone into Spring Break with an undefeated record. It was also the Red’s second straight game holding an opponent to three goals or fewer, and the third time this season.
“I think we’re capable of that, ” Tambroni said. “So, I guess I’m a little surprised, but looking at our defense, the way they’ve come together, the way [assistant] coach [Ben] DeLuca and [assistant] coach [Kyle] Georgalas have coached them, I certainly see our defense being capable of that. I think looking ahead, I think we have to be realistic in thinking it’s probably not going to happen all that often in the future, and if it does, than jeez, we’re really playing well. “
The stellar defensive effort was led by junior goalie Matt McMonagle, whose 10 saves was his second-highest single-game total of the season. McMonagle currently boasts a 3.25 goals against average and 71.1 save percentage on the young season.
“It’s good just to get this win, and then take a deep breath and have all our focus on Duke heading into spring break, ” McMonagle said. “We’re just starting to gel as a unit and playing together, and our coaches gave us a great gameplan and I think we’re starting to execute.”
However, execution proved to be a problem for Cornell in the opening minutes. The Red turned the ball over in front of net – leaving McMonagle out of position and the goal wide open – but fortunately Cornell was able to prevent the Mountain Hawks from scoring. Co-captain Joe Boulukos settled his team down and scored with a quick shot from 15-yards out on the ensuing man advantage to give Cornell the early lead.
But the shaky start continued when Lehigh tied the game up only a minute later on an underhand shot by Richard Cornetta that bounced off the turf and fooled McMonagle. Cornell would find its nerves, however, and the 1-1 tie would be the last of the game. A string of six straight Red goals began when freshman Max Seibald accelerated past his marker one minute later, and whipped a shot past Lehigh keeper Eric Spirko to give Cornell the lead again.
Despite the Red’s defense holding the Mountain Hawks best attacker Stephen Marino to two assists, the Red played sloppily at times. A thrown away pass near the end of the first quarter gave Lehigh an opportunity at goal, but McMonagle was up to the task again, making a one-on-one stop. The Red countered on the rebound, and eventually Mitchell found the back of the net. Junior Brian Clayton assisted on the play, and only 35 seconds later, took a shot from 15 yards out that Spirko was unable to stop.
“I think any time you go through a lacrosse game and you have four or five failed clears, and you give up two or three man down opportunities, that Division I lacrosse teams these days, with the parity that’s available across the board, are going to score goals,” Tambroni said. “I can’t ask anything more of them in terms of results, but I think in terms of effort, and cohesion, and playmaking ability, we need to do a little bit of a better job.”
Returning from a one-game concussion layoff, Haswell opened the second quarter by taking the ball behind the net, wrapping around and faking out the keeper for an easy score.
“I’ve been symptom free for seven days,” he said. “I practiced with a green jersey, so I wasn’t allowed contact in practice. Today was the first day I was allowed contact. It was good getting bumped around a little bit, [but] I felt good.”
A penalty at 12:35 of the second on Seibald for slashing was negated by another slashing penalty by Lehigh’s Blake Best. Cornell quickly went on the offensive, and Haswell scored his second goal of the game to make it 6-1 Cornell. Mitchell would add his second of the game on a feed from junior Eric Pittard, who had four assists. Mitchell received the pass in front of goal, and after a neat double-pump, slotted the ball above the goalie and into the net.
Lehigh scored its second goal at 5:26 in the second when David Gaunt scored on another bounce-shot from about 20 yards out, that beat McMonagle low to his right.
But Cornell would once again respond a minute later. After an interchange behind the net between Haswell and Pittard, Haswell juked his defender and streaked toward goal. His defender regained ground enough to trip Haswell, but as he fell, the senior was able to get a pass off to Clayton in the middle for the score. The play caused an eruption from the crowd, and forced Lehigh to call a timeout.
Coming out of the halftime break with energy, Lehigh scored its third goal on a shot by Michael Zurfluh at 12:55. But it was too little too late.
After a Red defensive stop and stretch of possession, Pittard fed Mitchell down low to the goalie’s left. Mitchell took the ball high and, facing away from the goalie, controlled the ball and swung the stick like a golf club, swooshing the ball into the net to complete his hat-trick.
Two minutes later, Boulukos fed Haswell, who turned and fired past Spirko in one motion, extending Cornell’s lead to 10-3 and earning his third goal.
Rookie Rocco Romero increased the lead exactly one minute later on Pittard’s fourth feed of the game. At 1:12 before the fourth quarter, Spirko tried to clear the ball from a scramble in front of net, but forced it into his own net. Lewis was credited with the goal, giving Cornell a 12-3 lead and the game’s final score.
Archived article by Josh Perlin
Sun Assistant Sports Editor