February 16, 2007

M. Laxers Scrimmage Hopkins

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The men’s lacrosse team treated its first two exhibition matches much as an NFL team would treat its first few preseason games, giving the second stringers, third stringers and beyond a chance to log some minutes. Tomorrow, in the Red’s last preseason warmup, head coach Jeff Tambroni will trot out his regular lineup for most of the scrimmage with Johns Hopkins, just as coaches play their regulars for most of the last NFL preseason affairs.

“The first two games were a wonderful opportunity to play everyone on the team,” he said. “We learned a lot about a lot of the guys on our team who aren’t regulars. I would imagine that we’ll try to put all our [regulars] in there for four quarters.”

While Tambroni enjoyed the opportunity to get everyone on the field, he knows that it is finally time to see how someone not wearing carnelian and white will react to the execution of the Red’s play. And although Blue Jays’ head coach Dave Pietramala used to coach at Cornell, Tambroni sees the opportunity to face off against a perennial powerhouse like Johns Hopkins as the more valuable asset of the trip to Baltimore.

“The fact that they’ve been so dominant over the years gives us an opportunity to measure up against a team we know will be among the best in the country,” he said. “We’re not going in with everything intact regarding winning and losing. … A lot of [executing] is timing, though. We want to find if our timing will have success. We want to see how other teams will react to it.”

For the Red, tomorrow’s contest also presents the final opportunity to get the team playing at game speed.

“We are working on just getting up and down the field, and picking up the pace of play … making stops on defense and moving the ball up quickly,” said senior co-captain Mitch Belisle. “Our transition game has been important, and the focus has been on that this week and last two scrimmages.”

Another focus for the Red has simply been conditioning, which has been hampered by the thick blanket of snow that dropped on Ithaca this week. Practice was canceled Wednesday, and the team being forced indoors yesterday.

“We’ve tried to focus on [conditioning] going inside,” Belisle said. “We’ve thrown in some wrinkles and some drills where we have to get up and down and push it to the limit.”

Tambroni admits that conditioning is a key aspect to bringing the team up to game speed, but points out that most of the teams injury problems are on the mend.

“I’m not concerned [about conditioning], but I’m weary of the fact that a couple of our injured guys like [senior] Eric [Pittard] and [sophomore] Max [Seibald] are out of game shape because when you’re practicing two hours a day you just can’t replicate that on a bike,” he said.

Still, Cornell’s main focus this weekend will be to build a strong foundation on offense and defense that it can mold into various setups and plays throughout the season.

“Right now, we don’t have a lot of plays or counters in, and we don’t have a fine-tuned offense,” Tambroni said. “We’re just working on our eight-based defense, eight-based offense and building a strong foundation that we can tweak throughout the year. We really need to focus on our riding game and base rides and our clearing game in preparation for our first game. … Since it is early on, there is not a ton of time and we are trying to do a good job at really strengthening one or two things and then concentrate on those at the beginning of the season.”

In the end, however, the Red will simply be happy to see some non-Cornellians on the field after an off-season of competition against one another.

“It’s just great to get out and play against some guys in other jerseys,” Beslisle said. “We’ll get to see how we react to different situations, being up a couple goals, or being down a couple goals.”