May 5, 2006

M. Lax Clashes With Hobart in NCAA Tuneup

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Having clinched a share of the Ivy League title and an NCAA playoff berth, and with the looming distraction of Slope Day, it would be easy for the men’s lacrosse team (10-2, 5-1 Ivy) to overlook its final regular-season game against Hobart (6-7, 1-6 ECAC). But head coach Jeff Tambroni knows the risk of resting the team’s hopes on that strategy.

“We have a lot of things to work on right now. We still feel like we have a lot of weaknesses that have been exposed in the last couple of weeks that we need to do a better job with,” he said. “[We] realize what an important game this is for our program; to go into the playoffs with a little bit of momentum; to try and compete as hard as we can.”

The Cornell – Hobart contest is college lacrosse’s oldest rivalry, with the teams meeting for the 128th time tonight at 7:30 p.m. The Red holds a 76-47-4 advantage in the all-time series, which began in the 1896 season.

The last time the two teams came together, Cornell overcame a slow start to double-up the Statesmen, 10-5, closing out the regular season with its eighth straight win. Eight different Cornell players scored goals to finish the 2005 regular season with a 10-2 record.

“It’s a special game to be a part of; it’s a very unique game to be a part of. It’s an upstate game. It’s a rivalry of sorts in terms of its age, in terms of its location and I think its always been a very difficult game,” Tambroni said.

The Red is coming off an important, 10-6, home win over Brown on April 29 that earned the squad a share of its fourth consecutive league title. Cornell held the Bears to one goal over the second and third quarters combined and never trailed in the Senior Day victory.

On that same day, the Statesmen lost their seventh contest of the season, 11-6, to its conference rival Loyola.

Hobart has the 18th-best offense in the nation, utilizing a balanced scoring attack that has nine players with more than ten points – all of which are averaging more than a point per game. Daryl Veltman leads the Statesmen with 21 goals and nine assists, good for a team-high 30 points. David O’Quinn has a team-best 14 assists and has added 11 goals (25 points). Nick Currie (25 points) is the team’s second-leading scorer with 18 goals, Christopher David has 15 goals and 19 points, and Sean Murphy has 14 goals and seven assists.

But the Red has an even more imposing offense, boasting the fourth-best goals per game average in the nation and four players in the top-50 in the nation in points per game. Junior David Mitchell – the nation’s third leading scorer – (36 goals, seven assists) – senior Derek Haswell (22 goals, 14 assists) and junior Eric Pittard (14 goals, 22 assists) lead a devastating Red front-line that has accounted for 53 percent of Cornell’s goals this season. Senior Joe Boulukos (21 goals, 13 assists) and Rookie Max Seibald (17 goals, 10 assists) lead the midfield attack, and are the team’s offensive engines.

Defensively, the Red also hold an edge over the Statesmen. Cornell has the second-best defense in the country, allowing a measly 5.58 goals per game. In contrast, Hobart has the nation’s 35th best defense, allowing 9.08 goals per game. Mike DeSantis has made all 13 starts for Hobart, posting a 9.00 GAA and a .515 save percentage. Cornell’s junior goaltender Matt McMonagle owns the nation’s second-best goals against average (5.63 goals per game) and third-best save percentage (63 percent). Hobart owns a decided advantage in faceoffs with a 55.7 face-off win percentage compared to the Red’s 43.4 percentage.

Despite its clear statistical edge, the Red has not been playing its best lacrosse as of late, and has been trying to get back to its top form.

“I think we’re going to attempt to just reinvest all of our emotions and efforts towards this [past] week. I think it’s easy to look ahead and say we’ve finally clinched a berth into the playoff let’s start thinking about our first round, but that’s not an option with this team,” Tambroni said. “… in recent history, there’s been some very tough games, some very physical games.”

Archived article by Josh Perlin
Sun Assistant Sports Editor