If any league opponent can hope to serve the men’s lacrosse team a reality check by demolishing the Red’s perfect record thus far in 2006, recent history says it may be Penn.
The Quakers were the last Ivy League team to defeat the Red, which they did on April 3, 2004, by a score of 10-8. Since then, No. 2 Cornell (6-0, 1-0 Ivy) has amassed an 11-game unbeaten streak in Ancient Eight play. However, No. 16/18 Penn (6-1, 1-1) presents a dangerous challenge to the best start to a Cornell season since the 1987 squad went 13-0 before falling to Johns Hopkins in the national championship game.
“I think [we] are still very cautiously optimistic team,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “I think we’re very realistic about where we are, and I think we’re all excited that we’re undefeated right now, but we also understand that the competition that’s in front of us may be better than the competition that’s behind us. You just never know how things are going to pan out as the year goes on.”
Penn had saw its own bid for a perfect season demolished at the hands of Harvard last weekend, as the Crimson used a second-quarter spurt to post a 13-8 win over the Quakers on Franklin Field in Philadelphia.
“Penn’s having a great year and we certainly know how capable they are,” Tambroni said. “I think our guys are motivated because of how good [Penn is] in 2006 and the opportunity to compete against such a great lacrosse team down in Philly. I think that’s what’s driving our guys to prepare [and focus] as hard as they can this week.”
On paper, the two offenses represent the best the Ivy League has to offer at this early stage of the season. Cornell leads the league with 12.83 goals per game, but Penn is close behind with 11.14 markers per contest. D.J. Andrzejewski leads the Quakers with 16 goals and five assists, while Jamie Riordan and David Cornbrooks have notched 14 and 12 tallies, respectively.
“They do such a good job of possessing the ball, period,” Tambroni said. “It’s a selfless offense. I think if you’re not careful you can spend … the majority of the game just watching their offense play, which is what we don’t want to do. But you don’t want to overextend yourself either, because they’re very capable of getting to the goal, and you end up creating easier opportunities for them which you certainly don’t want to do.”
The Red is statistically the best team in the league in goals against average, as junior goaltender Matt McMonagle has allowed just 4.33 scores per game. McMonagle’s .675 save percentage is good for runner-up status in the league standings. Penn’s Greg Klossner ranks third in the conference with a 6.92 goals against average and a .615 save percentage.
“It’s a fine line that we’ve got to walk on the defensive end, and we’ve just go to make sure that we’re just doing a good job of playing within ourselves as we have in the last couple of games,” Tambroni said. “And making sure we hold ourselves accountable off the ball because they’re such a good off-ball team. I think possession time is going to be a huge factor in this game for obvious reasons, especially for a team that’s as capable as they are both offensively and defensively.”
Despite what national rankings and league standings may say, Tambroni believes his squad is well aware that every game is an essential step in building a successful season and returning to the NCAA tournament, where the Red has been eliminated in the quarterfinals the past two years.
“We don’t want to take things for granted. We’ve just encouraged our guys to … stay hungry day in and day out, to realize that each and every day you feel like you’re moving towards the top and that stuff can be taken away within a matter of moments or a matter of 60 minutes in a lacrosse game,” Tambroni said. “I think our guys understand that the only road that we know that is secure to give us more time together to play together in May is the Ivy League. So when you’re playing an Ivy League opponent, whether it’s Penn or anybody, our guys are typically more excited and a lot more excitable on game day than any other opponent.”
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Sports Editor