April 14, 2006

Men's Lax to Welcome Green in Key Ivy Game

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Only two weeks ago, the Red was sitting atop the Ivy League, undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country. But heading into tomorrow’s game against Dartmouth (4-5, 0-1 Ivy), a team that has proved itself a worthy opponent in recent years, the No. 5 Red (7-2, 2-1) is looking for a win under very different circumstances.

A loss to No. 16 Penn on April 1 and a home loss to No. 12 Syracuse on Tuesday, sandwiching a win over Harvard last Saturday, has dropped Cornell into a tie for second place in the Ivy League.

“Penn was a game we certainly would like to have back, but we didn’t play well enough to win. Syracuse was a very good opponent that made more plays down the stretch,” head coach Jeff Tambroni said. “This has traditionally been a difficult week for us, because you play Harvard on the road, you play Syracuse – which is always an extremely emotional game, win or lose – and then you really have to reinvest your emotion, and reset your sights on a very good Ivy League opponent in Dartmouth.”

The last time Cornell and Dartmouth met, both teams played heart-stopping lacrosse in a game that wasn’t decided until the final minutes. After taking an early 4-0 lead in the second quarter, the Red allowed the Green to go on a 5-1 run and tie the game. But, Cornell managed to pull out the win, 8-7, holding off a late Dartmouth comeback.

“Last year I feel like we stole one from Dartmouth in a lot of ways. They played with a lot more energy, a lot more heart. We were very lucky … we probably didn’t have any business winning,” Tambroni said.

Cornell is coming off a difficult loss to Syracuse, 12-11, at Schoellkopf field, which snapped Cornell’s home winning streak – the second-longest in the nation – at 10 games. Dartmouth is also coming off a disappointing loss to Penn, 10-9, in which the Green blew its early 6-1 lead. In the second half, the Quakers outscored Dartmouth, 6-2, and out-shot the Green, 22-15.

“The understanding of our guys is that each and every day is going to be so precious for us in practice and on the weekends. … we don’t want to take anything for granted,” Tambroni said.

One key to a close contest could be faceoff wins, an area both teams struggled with in their previous games. The Red relied on its captain in that category last game, with senior Joe Boulukos winning 10-of-16 faceoffs despite the Red’s 11-of-26 overall disadvantage. The Green only managed to win 9-of-21 faceoffs against Penn.

But the team is more focused on consistently playing up to its potential and bringing a high energy level to the game than any one area in particular, as the Red is confident that if it plays its style of lacrosse, the team can come away with a victory.

“I think that [the] lessons learned … [from] the Syracuse game and from last year’s Dartmouth game is that if you don’t come with a lot of energy … that this team and any team is capable of beating you,” Tambroni said.

“We practiced [yesterday] and things were pretty good. We were kind of just getting back into it,’ Boulukos said. “I think fatigue is a factor, but it’s a factor for both teams.”

Cornell is led by junior David Mitchell on attack. Mitchell leads the Red with 27 goals and 32 points. Boulukos (16 goals, eight assists), senior Derek Haswell (15 goals, 10 assists), junior Eric Pittard (11 goals, 18 assists) and freshman Max Seibald (14 goals, six assists) form a deadly scoring attack for Cornell that ranks among the nation’s best.

The Green has offensive weapons of its own, as the team ranks third in the Ivy League at 10 goals per game. Offensively, the Green relies heavily on attackers Nick Bonacci and Jamie Coffin. Bonacci leads the Green in points, scoring 13 goals on a lethal 38.2 percent shooting to go along with a league-high 27 assists. Coffin is the team’s top scorer with 19 goals from a team-leading 69 shots, to go along with his 13 assists.

“They’re good players. One thing we’re worried about is the way they create for other players,” Boulukos said. “But we’re pretty confident in our defenders … we’ll slide if they need us.”

However, the teams have vastly different defenses. Cornell has the Ivy League’s best defense, allowing a paltry 5.5 goals per game. On the other end of the defensive spectrum, Dartmouth has given up an Ancient Eight worst 10.6 goals per game.

Junior goaltender Matt McMonagle leads Cornell’s defense, and owning one of the nation’s best goals against average (5.44 goals per game) and save percentages (64.0 percent). Dartmouth goaltender Pat Marshall has a 10.57 goal against average and a .530 save percentage.

Archived article by Josh Perlin
Sun Assistant Sports Editor