It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s men’s lacrosse sophomore Max Seibald.
Seibald, who had not found the back of the cage for the vast majority of Cornell’s matchup with Syracuse at the Carrier Dome last night, played the role of hero as he netted a diving goal with four seconds left on the clock to break a tie and give the Red a 16-15 victory.
Late in the fourth quarter, with the game knotted at 15, Cornell picked up a ground ball, and senior Eric Pittard missed a shot wide in transition with eight seconds left. With the Red still maintaining possession, both teams called successive timeouts
“The play was supposed to be directed to Eric Pittard,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “Then they called timeout again, we came back into the huddle and Max looked me square in the eyes and said ‘Coach, I think I can get underneath.’ And I give him credit. I think the best thing I did today was just listen.”
As play began again, Seibald took the ball and fought off Syracuse senior Steve Panaralli, who had held the midfielder without a goal all night. Syracuse did not slide another defender to Seibald, and he was able to run past Panarelli and take a diving shot towards the net that Syracuse goaltender Peter Coluccini could not stop. After sophomore Tommy Schmicker won the ensuing face off, Cornell ran onto the field in celebration as Coluccini was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for breaking his stick.
“I figured that I owed it to my team, because I didn’t play my best game today,” Seibald said. “I’m glad my coach had the confidence to give me the ball at that point.”
Besides for Seibald’s heroics, Cornell was led by Pittard, who netted four goals and handed out three assists. Classmate David Mitchell also tallied four scores to go along with an assist of his own. Junior John Glynn added a hat trick to help the Red to victory. Syracuse sophomore Greg Niewieroski led the Orange with five goals and junior Steven Brooks netted three of his own.
On defense, Cornell senior co-captain Mitch Belisle held Syracuse junior Mike Leveille to only one assist. Leveille was the Orange’s point-leader coming into the game and was also a preseason first-team All-American.
“[Belisle] did a great job,” Tambroni said. “Mitch has been great all year. Levielle was the guy that we thought made their offense run.”
In goal, Cornell senior co-captain Matt McMonagle made 11 saves to help preserve the win. Syracuse sophomore Peter Coluccini stopped 22 shots, including an acrobatic save on while on his behind of a Mitchell shot.
“Coluccini made some absolutely spectacular saves,” Tambroni said. “He made one when he was lying on his butt. … That is when we knew we were in for a battle.”
Cornell started the scoring with 11:47 left in the first period. Senior Brian Clayton had the ball at the point and found Glynn to the goalie’s right, and Glynn beat Coluccini one on one for the game’s first score. On the ensuing face off, Schmicker found senior Henry Bartlett streaking in front of the goal. Bartlett immediately passed it off to Mitchell who was waiting to Coluccini’s right. Mitchell slipped it by the goaltender for the quick goal.
“We were able to cash in on some easy looks,” Pittard said.
Cornell would get on the board again two minutes later when senior Casey Lewis dished it off to Pittard, who was waiting to the goalie’s left and slipped it past him. The Red would score its next goal in transition, as Seibald streaked down the field, and found Pittard again right to Coluccini’s left. The attackman’s ensuing score gave Cornell an early 4-0 lead.
“Like Cornell, we only had a couple of days to prepare,” said Syracuse head coach John Desko. “You have 48 hours as opposed to all week long. We did not settle into our assignments as early as we would have liked to.”
Syracuse had a chance to score soon afterward, when Leveille had an opportunity right in front of the goal, but could not corral the pass.
After tallies by Lewis and Mitchell made the score 6-0 in favor of the visiting team, Syracuse had a man-up opportunity before the end of the first period. Junior Greg Rommel had the ball, ran one direction, turned around and fired to McMonagle’s right, where Niewieroski caught the ball, and rocketed a shot past McMonagle for Syracuse’s first score of the night.
In the second quarter, Bartlett picked up a ground ball after a scrum, and got it off to Mitchell, who underhanded it past Coluccini for his third goal of the game. Less than a minute later, Syracuse sophomore Matt Abbott bounced it past McMonagle to cut Cornell’s lead to 7-2.
A few minutes later, Pittard had the ball behind the goal, and off a pick by Mitchell, Mitchell’s defender slid to Pittard. Pittard then turned around and found Mitchell, who came around to the goalie’s left, and slipped it by Coluccini.
Syracuse would pick up the momentum though. Sophomore Kenny Nims caught a pass behind the goal, ran around the net and slipped it by McMonagle. Niewieroski then netted two straight goals, and Rommel scored off of a pass from Dan Hardy on a man advantage to cut Cornell’s lead to 8-6 at halftime.
“We knew they had a lot of talent,” McMonagle said. “We felt good getting off those goals early, but we knew they were going to come back with a huge punch because they had their back against the wall and they needed this game.”
Three minutes into the third, Pittard had possession of the ball behind the cage. The attackman ran around to the goalie’s left and fired a past to Bartlett. Without missing a beat, Bartlett beat Coluccini to break the 4-0 Syracuse run. After an Orange goal by Steven Brooks and a Red goal by Glynn, Syracuse scored three straight goals by sophomore Pat Perritt, Brooks and Rommel to tie the game at 10, the first tie since 0-0. Meanwhile, Coluccini was stopping Cornell on the other end of the field.
“We wouldn’t have been close in that game if it wasn’t for [Coluccini],” Perritt said. “There is nothing better than having a hot goalie at the end of the game.”
After an illegal body check on Syracuse sophomore Spencer Van Schaak, Cornell regained the lead with three minutes left in the third. Seibald found Pittard wide open right to the goalie’s left, and he put it past Coluccini for his third tally of the contest.
After Perritt scored his second goal of the game on a shot from McMonagle’s right, Cornell junior John Espey streaked down the field past Van Schaack. He took a low shot that Coluccini could not save to give Cornell the lead again at 12-11. The teams alternated scores by Pittard and Niewieroski as the third period ended with Cornell nursing a one-goal lead.
“They got some open looks and we got some also,” McMonagle said.
A couple minutes into the fourth, Pittard cradled the ball behind the net. He passed it out in front and found Glynn, who zipped it past Coluccini. Three minutes later, Pittard once again had the ball behind the net, and he passed it back out to Lewis who spun and fired a shot past Coluccini to extend Cornell’s lead to three.
After a back-and-forth seven minutes in which no one scored, Syracuse got back on the board with 3:42 left in the fourth, as Niewieroski took a pass from Leveille and scored. The point was Leveille’s first of the game. A few seconds later, sophomore Dan Hardy scored to cut Cornell’s lead to one.
With 1:10 left, the Orange gained possession of the ball and called a timeout. After Perritt fired a shot wide with 40 seconds left, Brooks tied the game as he rocketed a shot past McMonagle from the middle of the field with 28 seconds left in the fourth.
“We tried to force him right-handed because he has a very good lefty shot,” McMonagle said. “That is one I have to save, so I’ll take responsibility for that one.”
Brooks’s goal tied the game, setting up Seibald’s late-game heroics.
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s men’s lacrosse sophomore Max Seibald.