April 28, 2006

M. Lax Looks to Clinch Share of League Crown

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Distractions will surround the men’s lacrosse team tomorrow as it welcomes Brown (2-9, 0-4 Ivy) to Schoellkopf Field for both squads’ final conference game of the season. The members of the 1971 and 1976 squads – both of which won NCAA national championships – will be in attendance. Six seniors will celebrate their final regular-season appearance at home in a game that will decide if Cornell (9-2, 4-1) will claim a share of its fourth consecutive Ivy crown and a bid to the NCAA tournament. The team is also playing the day before it will host the 21 Run on Sunday in honor of the late George Boiardi ’04.

“There definitely are a lot of distractions but I think all of these distractions are good distractions,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “I think it almost refocuses our guys and allows them to kind of take a look back, and it gives them a perspective as to what we may be able to accomplish with hard work and with teamwork like those guys did when they played back in ’71 and ’76.”

Achieving success equal to that of the ’71 and ’76 teams will require a victory over the Bears, who come to Ithaca looking to snap a seven-game skid. Last weekend, Brown fell to Dartmouth, 14-6, despite a five-goal comeback rally in the fourth quarter. Cornell holds a 29-15 edge in the all-time series, but trailed the Bears, 4-3, in last season’s matchup before Kevin Nee ’05 unleashed three straight goals and sparked the Red to an 11-6 victory, clinching the 2005 Ivy League title.

This year, senior co-captains Joe Boulukos and Cam Marchant, along with classmates Dave Bush, Derek Haswell, Kyle Miller, and Mike Pisco will lead the Red against Brown. With a win, this sextet will become the first senior class to four-peat as Ivy champions since the Class of 1983.

“You can take the records of both teams in the Ivy League and really disregard them, just based on our past,” Tambroni said. “It just always seems to be a very difficult game and it always seems to be a very tight game.”

Cornell is coming off a 4-3 victory last weekend at Princeton; however, Tambroni saw room for improvement for this week’s challenge.

“I thought our midfielders, defense and offense, did a great job of pushing the ball. … I just think we didn’t execute very well shooting the ball,” he said. “I give a lot of credit to Princeton’s goaltender, but I think Brown’s goaltender has been equally up to the task this year as well. … I think this goalie coming in is also a very talented goaltender so I think you have to pick and choose our shot selection a little bit better and I think we have continue to believe in our system from defense and to offense.”

That goaltender would be Nick Gentilesco, who has posted a 10.03 goals against average and a .514 save percentage in starting all 11 games for the Bears. On the other end of the field, Brown is led by Will McGettigan, who leads the Bears in points on the season with 17 goals and seven assists. David Medeira’s 18 goals leads the team, while Kyle Wailes and Alex Buckley have also contributed on the attack with 17 and 11 points, respectively.

But these potential threats have not been the primary focus during Cornell practices this week. Rather, the Red has looked inward in an effort to shore up potential soft spots in the Cornell strategy.

“[We’ve] talked a lot about Cornell, and about just trying to tighten up the things that we haven’t done a good job with, and some of the things that we’ve considered weaknesses and tried to highlight them as much as possible this week,” Tambroni said.

Despite these weaknesses, the Red has a number of weapons at its disposal. Junior David Mitchell ranks ninth in the nation with 3.73 points per game and leads the Cornell squad with 37 goals on the season. Haswell, Boulukos, and junior Eric Pittard have each reached double-digits in both goals and assists, and have accrued more than 30 points each during the 2006 campaign. Freshman Max Seibald has also had an impact, notching 16 goals and eight assists in his rookie season.

The defense has been just as strong for the Red, anchored by junior goaltender Matt McMonagle, whose 5.59 goals against average ranks behind only Navy’s Matt Russell in the nation. McMonagle’s .626 save percentage puts him fifth in the country in that statistical category. Classmate Mitch Belisle held Princeton’s senior Peter Trombino pointless in last weekend’s matchup, the first game in Tombrino’s career that he has been held without a point. Pisco leads the defense with 38 ground balls on the season.

Tambroni hopes that playing under the collective gaze of two teams that won national championships will only help his players perform at an even higher level tomorrow.

“I think if we can go out there with a lot of energy this week, I think our championship teams and alums are going to allow us a little bit more of a spark,” he said. “And I think if we can feed off that energy from the stands and bring it onto the field and play symbolic of what they’ve always played for … and then play for our seniors knowing it’s going to be their last senior game, then I’m hopeful that kind of stuff will get us through that game and allow us to execute and focus to the point that we’re having success.”

Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Sports Editor