April 7, 2006

Cornell to Do Battle With No. 17 Harvard

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When it comes to the Ivy League season, each game is more important than the last for the men’s lacrosse team. With only six games on the conference schedule, every outcome has the potential to be the deciding factor in a team’s season. After a loss to Penn last weekend, the Red will look to recover when it faces Harvard tomorrow in Cambridge, Mass.

It will be the 79th all-time meeting between No. 5/6 Cornell (6-1, 1-1 Ivy) and No. 17/16 Harvard (4-2, 1-0), but the Red is focused on what this single contest means.

“It’s Harvard and it’s Ivy League, so it’s big game for us,” said senior co-captain Joe Boulukos.

“We’re really excited to play Harvard,” said senior attacker Derek Haswell. “It’s going to be fun. That’s the biggest thing for us – go out, have fun and get back to the way we’ve been playing.”

Cornell owns a commanding 55-23 lead in the all-time series, including seven straight victories. The last time the two squads met on April 9, 2005, the Red dominated in a 16-6 victory at Schoellkopf Field. In all, 12 different players registered points for the Red. However, Cornell will not take this game for granted, especially considering its recent form. The Red is looking to reestablish itself as the team to beat in the Ancient Eight, as the defending league champions lost to Penn, 8-6, last Saturday. The loss ended a streak of 11 straight league victories for Cornell, and the game ended with Penn making a 5-1 run in the second half to come back and win the game.

“We didn’t practice well or as hard as we should have all of last week. I just don’t think we prepared the way we should have in order to be successful in that game,” Boulukos said. “We think that this week we’ve practiced hard – not only hard but smarter.”

Meanwhile, Harvard is coming off a thrilling triple-overtime, 8-7, victory over Denver. The Crimson came back from three goals down in the fourth period to take the lead before Denver scored with two minutes left in regulation. Greg Cohen ended the tie with 1:15 left in the third overtime, scoring his team-leading 12th goal – his second of the game.

“They’re a good team. They’ve got a lot of really good athletes,” Boulukos said. “Their defense is pretty aggressive. They can stretch you out and challenge people with the ball. So, it’s going to be a little bit of a test for us.”

Midfielder Evan Calvert paces the team with 18 points and seven assists, forming a deadly midfield-attack duo with Cohen. Tom Boylan and Brooks Scholl – who led the Crimson in points last season – are also dangerous on the offensive end for Harvard.

But Cornell has plenty of firepower of its own. The Red is third in the nation in scoring offense with 11.86 goals per game, third in scoring margin – outscoring its opponents by seven goals per game – and seventh in man-up offense at 47.8 percent.

“We’ve been focusing on just playing our game,” Haswell said. “We need to get back to playing … our style of lacrosse.”

The Red already has three players who have scored 10 or more goals, led by junior David Mitchell, who also leads the Red in points. The attackman has had a breakout campaign, with 23 goals on only 37 shots and 26 points in the first seven games. With those numbers, Mitchell leads the nation in goals per game, averaging 3.43 per contest, and ranks fourth in the nation in points per game with four.

Classmate Eric Pittard has also burst onto the scene – having transferred from Virginia this summer – to lead the team in assists (16). Pittard ranks sixth in the nation with 2.29 assists per game and is ninth in the nation at 3.57 points per game. Boulukos , a preseaon All-American, has been solid with 10 goals and five assists, and recently passed the 100-point mark for his career.

“[Mitchell] can catch almost anything and put it in the net. And with Eric, he’s got such great vision that he’s been able to feed a lot of guys, and I think it’s helped us out a ton,” Boulukos said. “It’s definitely made us much more dynamic because we’re not as one dimensional as we might have been if we didn’t have them. We’ve got some guys who can just shoot the ball or dodge very well – which is big time for us.”

Cornell’s defense has also been among the nation’s best this season. The Red is second in Division I in scoring defense, allowing only 4.86 goals per game and is second in man-down defense at 86.4 percent.

The Red hasn’t allowed double-digit tallies against its defense all season, the best streak by a Cornell squad since 2002. What’s more, the team’s 34 goals allowed are the fewest allowed by a Cornell squad in its first seven games since the 1976 national championship squad allowed 33 goals.

The Red have also only allowed nine fourth-quarter goals all season.

Pre-season All-American junior goaltender Matt McMonagle has been stellar behind the defense, averaging 4.86 goals against with a .649 save percentage on the season, the second and third-best averages, respectively, in the country.

Archived article by Josh Perlin
Sun Assistant Sports Editor