As the men’s lacrosse team took the field on Saturday, a dark and ominous shadow descended upon the field of play. But the shadow wasn’t from the clouds of the impending storm that would drench the game in the second period.
It was the cloud of poor preparation.
No. 2 Cornell stumbled for the first time this season, losing to No. 16/No. 18 Penn, 8-6, in Philadelphia. Penn (7-1, 2-1 Ivy) was the last Ivy League team to beat Cornell (6-1, 1-1) – 11 conference games and two years ago – when the Quakers beat the Red, 10-8, on April 3, 2004. The Red’s loss also drops the team off pace of its 1987 counterpart, which won 13 in a row before losing to Johns Hopkins in the NCAA national championship game.
“There were a lot of lapses that we hadn’t made in the past,” said junior Mitch Belisle. “We just made errors that aren’t characteristic of our team.”
Despite holding an advantage in the game’s final tallies in shots (35-30), ground balls (26-16), clears (19-of-19) and faceoffs (8-of-15), Cornell committed 16 turnovers and had seven penalties to Penn’s three flags. Although only one of the ensuing man-up opportunities led to a Penn score, the Red was 0-of-3 on the extra-man advantage.
“I think we didn’t practice well. We just didn’t come to play that whole week of practice, and as [head] coach [Jeff Tambroni] says, ‘if you don’t practice well, you don’t play well,'” said senior captain Joe Boulukos.
Ahead 5-3 with 11:57 left in the third period, Cornell allowed Penn to score five unanswered goals and did not score for 20 minutes, giving Penn an advantage that was too great for the squad to overcome.
“We only scored one goal in the second half, which was tough, and when you put that much pressure on your defense, it’s not [good],” Boulukos said.
“I think we’ve been getting away with a lot because we’ve been a lot more talented than the teams we’ve played,” Belisle said. “We didn’t practice with the drive we needed to. … All around we didn’t play up to our potential and we didn’t play with the passion that we needed to win. We didn’t play like the Cornell team we are.”
Freshman Max Seibald and junior David Mitchell led the Red with two points each. Seibald scored two goals while Mitchell had one goal and one assist. Penn’s James Riordan scored four goals and teammate D.J. Andrzejewski added two goals and two assists. Cornell junior netminder Matt McMonagle made nine saves, while his Penn counterpart, Greg Klossner, made 11 saves for the Quakers.
Neither team scored for the first 10 minutes in the slow-building contest. But Cornell opened the scoring thanks to a play from one of its rookies. Seibald drove from the 40-yard line, going past the Quaker defenders and whipping a shot over Klossner to give the Red the lead at 4:46. Boulukos added to the tally three minutes later when he took a shot from 25-yards that beat Klossner low.
As the weather turned foul in the second quarter, things started to break down for both teams, as the two combined for 21 turnovers over the next two periods.
“Weather like that usually helps us because we’re used to playing in 10-degree weather,” Belisle said.
But Penn got two quick goals 35 seconds apart from Andrzejewski and P.J. Gilbert. Cornell countered with goals by juniors Eric Pittard and Casey Lewis within a minute of each other, but once again, Penn would grab the momentum. Riordan scored his first goal of the game with 3:59 to play, cutting Cornell’s lead to 4-3. The Red would then have to kill off two consecutive penalties in the final four minutes – both by senior Cameron Marchant – to escape to halftime unscathed.
However, after Seibald’s second goal three minutes into the third period, Cornell’s offensive well ran dry.
Penn scored the next five goals, starting less than one minute later with Riordan’s second tally of the day. Andrzejewski scored 10 minutes later, with a little over one minute remaining in the third. Riordan completed his hat trick and added another tally at 12:22 and 9:46 in the fourth quarter, respectively. Gilbert scored the Quaker’s eighth and final goal with 6:35 to play, and Cornell was only able to muster one goal over the final minutes from Mitchell.
“We didn’t share the ball and move as well as we usually do. It made our offense very stale,” Boulukos said. “We [didn’t have] ball movement and attack the back side of the defense as well as we had.”
Archived article by Josh Perlin Sun Assistant Sports Editor