Freshman midfielder Max Seibald’s high school coach once told him the difference between good and great players was that great players, “want to step up and make a big play.”
So when powerhouse Syracuse came to Schoellkopf Field last Tuesday, Seibald – only a few months into his young career on East Hill – was relentless in keeping his team in a back-and-forth 60-minute encounter. While the No. 5 Red (8-2, 3-1 Ivy) was on the wrong end of a 12-11 decision after the final whistle blew, Seibald, who ended up with a career-high five points off three goals and two assists, was spectacular, dodging poles and double-teams most notably like one of his more infamous linemates.
“What’s amazing is how well Seibald is playing for a freshman,” said Syracuse head coach John Desko. “I think a lot of people thought that Cornell is really going to have to rely an awful lot on [senior All-American Joe] Boulukos and all of the sudden, it’s like his twin brother is out there.”
Paired with Boulukos and junior Casey Lewis on the top midfield line, Seibald has emerged as one of the Red’s most dangerous offensive threats in 2006. In the Red’s 18-9 win over Dartmouth last weekend, Seibald emerged with a pair of goals and assists. While the reigning two-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week might be the fifth-leading point scorer (16 goals, 8 assists) on a Cornell offense which has averaged 12.2 goals per contest, his main contribution is keeping pressure off Boulukos.
“He’s such an athletic kid and has such a hard shot that he demands attention from other defenders,” Boulukos said. “He has all of the tools. … The sky is the limit for Max.”
During his days at Hewlett High School, Seibald was his team’s first option on offense and said that he is not deterred from any of the pressures of making a big play.
“When we recruited him and watched him play throughout his senior year of high school, we knew we had a special recruit in Max Seibald,” said Cornell head coach Jeff Tambroni. “We knew he was a nice person with a lot of athleticism and a knack for the game.”
However, even Tambroni said he was surprised by Seibald’s rapid progression into college lacrosse. Seibald said he went into the fall season looking to work hard for his spot, but his growth has undoubtedly been linked to the presence of Boulukos, who also started during his freshman year.
“Joe has definitely had a great impact on my game,” Seibald said. “He’s been a mentor for me both on and off the field. He’s a great person to have as a mentor because he’s something you want to emulate in all aspects.”
“I’ve definitely tried to pass the torch a little bit to Max,” Boulukos said. “I’ve tried to help him out and show him how things are done around here.”
Perhaps Seibald saw something in Boulukos’ game which he could relate to. Like Boulukos, Seibald, who is 6-1, 195-pounds, uses his size and athleticism to dodge past his defenders, creating scoring opportunities. The freshman also has a deadly outside shot and can find his teammates on the run.
Opposing teams have realized this in recent times, putting poles on Seibald in hopes of stopping him. However, this has just opened up more opportunities for an offense which features attackmen such as senior Derek Haswell and juniors David Mitchell and Eric Pittard, among others.
“I think that as a freshman, you sometimes play with that freshness of being able to go out and compete, but at the same time, he also plays the maturity of the veteran role,” Tambroni said. “I think he’s going to walk that line and do that very successfully.”
Seibald, who like Boulukos, has also taken faceoffs this season, said he has not felt burdened with the role he has to take in important games.
“I think the bigger the game, the better Max gets,” Tambroni said. “When we felt like each and every contest takes a little bit more urgency. … Max has played better. I think he looks at [Boulukos] on how to respond, and I think Joey has taught him very well in how to play with poise in those kinds of situations. He never seems to get rattled or nervous in those situations.”
When asked about how Seibald can improve, Tambroni sighed for a moment, knowing that the freshman has loads of talent. For Seibald, what he needs, according to Tambroni, is the determination to improve in every aspect of his game everyday, similar to Boulukos’ work ethic. Once he acquires that, his potential is limitless.
“He has the chance to be one of the best players Cornell has ever had,” Tambroni said. “That’s saying a lot, and it’s no offense to the other great ones because we’ve had several great ones playing for Cornell. … I think he has the chance to rank amongst the best and that [work ethic] mentality will be that last piece of the cog that will allow him to the level of what we anticipate will be greatness.”
Boulukos, McMonagle Among Tewaaraton Nominees
Boulukos and junior goaltender Matt McMonagle were announced as part of a list of 23 nominees for the 2006 Tewaaraton Trophy – presented to the top collegiate varsity lacrosse player – yesterday. For Boulukos, this is the second consecutive year that he has been named to this list and he has led the Cornell offense with 19 goals and 11 assists this season.
“It’s great to know that your hard work is paying off and people are seeing you as one of the elite players in the country,” Boulukos said. “But it’s something that you can’t think about and worry about because whatever happens, happens. All I could do is play as hard as I possibly can.”
McMonagle is one of two goaltenders remaining in consideration, as he ranks second in the nation with a 5.86 goals against average and boasts a .626 save percentage – good for fifth.
Cornell is the only Ivy League team to have a finalist named for the Tewaaraton. Both players were on the Tewaaraton’s initial preseason “Watch List” of 53 players before it was scaled down to 23.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Senior Writer