For the seniors on the men’s lacrosse team, their first regular season game tomorrow has more significance than being the regular-season opener and an opportunity to get back onto the field after the Red’s loss to UMass in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament. It will also be the last time that they play Binghamton, the team against which George Boiardi ’04 died during a game on March 17, 2004.
“[Playing against Binghamton] has been very emotional, and it is a special game to play in,” said senior co-captain Matt McMonagle. “For us seniors, it is going to be a special game for us, being the last time we can go against Binghamton. It has that added factor into it and hopefully we will be able to make George proud.”
That 2004 game was the first time that the two squads met, but the game has since become an annual event. Cornell has won all three matches with Binghamton, including last year’s 16-3 win. In that game, senior David Mitchell scored eight goals after only scoring two in his career up to that point. Derek Haswell ’06 also netted four goals and recorded two assists for the Red.
Binghamton finished last year 7-8, with a 2-3 record in the America East, including a 7-6 upset over then-No. 8 Towson. On March 20, the team was ranked for the first time in its six-year history. It was named No. 16 by the STX/USILA poll.
“[Binghamton] has a lot of experience,” McMonagle said. “They have some young guys who are stepping up. It is a program on the rise we are not taking it lightly.”
The Bearcats return several of their top players, including sophomore Chris Mulheron, who recorded a team-high 37 points last season. The team also returns sophomore Jake Boyce, who led Binghamton last year with 23 goals, and junior Stephen Smith, who was named to the first-team All-Conference squad in 2006. In addition, Cornell will have to deal with sophomore J.P. Wioncek, whose .579 face-off percentage ranked No. 12 in the nation last season.
“[Binghamton] is a team that can be very dangerous up and down the field,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “They have a good face-off guy, so they control the pace of the game. They have always been very tough defensively. We have to do a good job of sharing the ball and we have to good job creating good looks.”
Between the pipes, Binghamton graduated Kevin McKeown, who started 12 games last season. The Bobcats currently have three goalies on their roster, including junior Larry Kline, who played in five games last year and made a career-high nine saves in the loss to the Red. Junior Jeff Walker and freshman Dan Serafine will also compete for the starting job.
Like Binghamton, Cornell welcomes back several of its top players from last season. Mitchell led the team last season with 43 goals and 52 total points. He was named first-team All-Ivy for his performance. Senior Eric Pittard notched a team-high 24 assists and recorded 41 points. Cornell senior co-captain Mitch Belisle was named first-team All-Ivy after recording 41 ground balls on the year. Sophomore Max Seibald looks to repeat his stellar rookie campaign, in which he was named a second-team All-American with 33 points.
In goal, McMonagle was named a second-team All-American and first-team All-Ivy last season after putting up a 5.73 goals against average, good for second in the nation, and a .625 save percentage, which ranked him third in the nation.
Tomorrow’s game will also be the debut for 12 Cornell freshmen, who will take the field for the first time.
“Now it all becomes so real when we get to put on the game jerseys on Saturday for the first time together as a team,” Tambroni said. “I feel like that the team has prepared long and hard for this moment. I feel excited for these guys as a group, and in particular, I feel excited for the freshmen, for their first opportunity to have the chance to put on the Cornell jersey and everything that it stands for.”
Cornell is coming off three exhibition games over the past three weeks. The Red beat Drexel and Loyola before losing to Johns Hopkins on the road last Saturday.
“I think that [the Johns Hopkins game] was really a wakeup call,” McMonagle said. “That is what scrimmages are supposed to do — let us know where we need to keep working. We worked a lot this week on aspects such as riding, clearing and communication offensively and defensively. Hopefully we can tighten those up come Saturday.”