March 9, 2007

M. Laxers Look to Stay Undefeated

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While many Cornell students’ goals before spring break are to survive prelims, catch up on sleep and fill out their March Madness brackets, the men’s lacrosse team has a different objective in mind — to go into the break undefeated for the second straight year. Standing in its path though, is a date with No. 9 Army, a team that upset Syracuse earlier this season. No. 3 Cornell will look to build on its victory over Notre Dame last weekend when it faces the Black Knights tomorrow on the road.

“Now that we are 3-0, certainly our goal is to win the next game to allow us to go into the spring break undefeated,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni.
[img_assist|nid=22009|title=In control|desc=Senior midfielder Brian Clayton surveys the field in the Red’s 19-4 win over Binghamton on Feb. 24.|link=none|align=left|width=81|height=100]
No. 9 Army (4-0, 2-0 Patriot) is off to its best start since 1993 after beating Lafayette, 9-2, last Saturday. The Black Knights’ season highlight was an 8-6 upset of then-No. 2 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. The win was Army’s first-ever victory at the famous arena and its first win against Syracuse since 1983.

“Army is basically well-coached, solid, hard-working team,” said senior David Mitchell. “They will bring a lot of passion to the game at home, and we have to match that and bring as much intensity and passion as we can.”

On offense, the Black Knights are led by junior Justin Bokmeyer, who leads the team with nine goals and nine total points on the season, including a career-high four goals in a 9-5 win over Holy Cross on Feb. 27. Army also boasts sophomores Jason Peyer and Kevin LoRusso, who have notched five goals apiece this season.

On defense, Cornell (3-0) will have to watch out for Army junior Jay Larson, who has recorded seven ground balls so far this year. In addition, classmate Craig Massie was named Patriot League Defender of the Week on Feb. 28 for his performance against Syracuse, in which he helped to hold the Orange’s seven preseason All-Americans to only six goals.

“[Army] plays a wonderful team system” Tambroni said. “They play a great team offense and great team defense, and they are so passionate about the way that they play that they become a very dangerous opponent. … We have to play with a lot heart and a lot of passion, knowing that they are a team that has already knocked off Syracuse earlier this season and is capable of playing with anyone in the country.”

Between the pipes, junior Adam Fullerton has started all four games for the Black Knights this season. Fullerton has been a starter since his freshman year and has continued his strong play this season. He has posted a 4.91 goals against average and a .725 save percentage, including a 16-save performance in the win over Syracuse.

“They have a goalie that we feel is as good as any goalie in the country right now,” Tambroni said. “He has helped their defense maintain the consistency and the strength that they have thus far this season. We have to generate a high-quality shot in order to score on him. We have to pay attention to what he is doing and how we are doing against him in order to have success.”

Cornell is coming off a 13-8 victory of then-No. 8 Notre Dame, in a game played at Hewlett, N.Y. Senior Eric Pittard scored a team-high four goals to lead the Red and Mitchell added three tallies of his own. Senior co-captain Matt McMonagle saved seven shots to help preserve the victory. According to Tambroni though, there is still room for improvement.

“We want to eliminate our turnovers,” Tambroni said. We gave the ball up 21 times against Notre Dame, so that would be an area that we are trying to improve on.”

Last season, Cornell routed Army, 13-1, in a game played at Schoellkopf Field. It was the first time in 30 seasons that the Red held an opponent to only one goal. Mitchell notched three goals to lead Cornell and sophomore Max Seibald added two scores of his own. Cornell outshot Army 49-13 in the game.

The Black Knights currently hold a 33-9 edge in the all-time series against the Red, which dates back to 1938. A Cornell victory would be the first back-to-back wins over Army since 1990 and 1991.

“Army is a gritty team,” Mitchell said. “We will have to out-grit them.”