This year, there will be at least one new name added to the list of men’s lacrosse team leaders — senior co-captain Mitch Belisle.
“[Mitch] has the ability like the leaders we’ve had here in the past … who [were] willing to stand alone when they believed something was right and carry out that conviction,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni.
When the team voted for this season’s captains at the end of the 2006 campaign, Belisle stood out because of his three years of level-headed leadership on defense for the Red — not to mention his All-America and All-Ivy honors.
“He was clearly the players’ choice,” Tambroni said. “Guys respect how hard he works, they respect the integrity of his intensity. He’s a guy that’s a consumant leader of this program day in and day out, and I think what we love about him so much is his consistency to lead. He never waivers.”
Belisle has come a long way, though. He entered Cornell as what Tambroni described as a “raw” offensive midfielder. What kept the coaching staff coming back to Belisle was not so much his talent, but the heart and passion he played with — and his nice-guy demeanor.
“We felt he would develop into a good player for us somewhere on the field,” Tambroni said.
An understatement, no doubt, as Belisle will enter his second season serving as the pull the Red assigns to mark the opponent’s most threatening offensive weapon.
“It’s something that makes me excited and nervous and everything combined into one,” Belisle said of marking the opposing star attacker. “Thinking forward to that gets me to work hard in practice.”
While Belisle said he would particularly like to focus on his footwork and lateral motion, Tambroni points out that those are just a reflection of who Belisle is — a person always looking to be better.
“Athleticism is the one thing I think Mitch does have,” Tambroni said. “He’s got good feet and good hands. … I don’t know if there’s any one thing in particular that Mitch needs to work on. He has a total package for a college defenseman from Cornell.”
With a defensive unit that has now has a year under its belt, sophomore Matt Moyer, junior Danny Nathan and sophomore Nick Gradinger will be more knowledgeable about one another to help bring the defense away from the cage.
“A big part of [our defense] is that we’re very comfortable with each other,” Belisle said. “Moyer and Nick and Danny have worked hard to see that we’re all on the same page, and coach has given us the leeway to press out a bit and give us some ability to maybe have some more range.”
Playing a large part in this will be All-American goaltender and senior co-captain Matt McMonagle.
“We’re lucky to have such a great goalie so we can take some chances and know that he’ll make some big saves behind us,” Belisle said.
As a co-captain, however, much of Belisle’s role will transpire away from Schoellkopf and Bartels this year.
“I think this year my role is to get everyone on that same page — practicing like we’re going to play and then in games making sure everyone is same page,” Belisle said. “It’s a little bit of everything, though. Getting guys fired up, communicating on the field about flies and making sure that off the field we feel good as a unit. Being as close off the field as on the field is very important.”