April 11, 2007

Seibald and Pittard Guide Red to Victory

Print More

Sophomore Matt Moyer raced toward the cage, the Syracuse defense reeling. After a turnover at midfield, the men’s lacrosse team was going to get one last shot breaking the 15-15 tie. As Moyer, a long-stick midfielder, entered unfamiliar territory within 20 yards of the goal, he suddenly slowed down as if he was unsure of something. Even with the clock increasingly getting close to zero, Moyer was sure of what he needed to do; get the ball to senior Eric Pittard.
He did just that, but Pittard — who already had four goals and three assists on the night — flung a low shot past the far goalpost. Overtime.
No, the Red was to have one last opportunity. Two large squares stacked on top of each other showed the eight seconds remaining in the game, and the referee’s signal sent a large Cornell crowd transplanted from Cornell into cheers.
Head coach Jeff Tambroni called time out. Again, it seemed obvious.
“The play was supposed to be directed to Eric Pittard,” Tambroni said. “We were going to try to get a back side feed through Eric; draw some attention to [sophomore] Max Seibald, hoping they were going to double team him … and then get the ball to Eric Pittard and then see if we can’t get something on the back side.”
Seibald never got to bring the ball in, however. The players trotted on to the field, only to be greeted with another whistle and a Syracuse timeout.
Did Syracuse notice something in the set up? Did the players and coaches think Cornell would take the obvious move and have Seibald — who had struggled all night on offense — dump it off to Pittard? Should Tambroni change the play?
“Then they called time out again,” Tambroni said. “We came back into the huddle and Max look me square in the eyes and said, ‘Coach I think I can get underneath,’ and you give him credit. I think the best thing I did today was just listen. Listen to one of the best players in the country. He thought he could get underneath and you have to give those guys who have the courage to make the mistakes to fail but are willing to succeed an opportunity to do that.”
The players lined up again. The whistle blew. Seibald bolted in from the sidelines, barreling toward the cage. Everyone in the building waited for him to pass. Syracuse chose not to slide its defense to rotate another defender to Seibald, choosing to stay at home on Pittard, and trust Steve Panarelli who had shut down Seibald all night. It was like a horse race to the net, with Seibald leading by just more than a nose. He dove across the cage and released a shot on a goalie, Peter Caluccini, who had 22 saves on the evening. In an instant, there was a mosh pit in front of the cage, pandemonium erupted in the Cornell crowd, and lost somewhere in the fray was the bands 16th and final rendition of “Give My Regards To Davy” after a goal. 16-15: final score.
“Shows you how much I know,” Tambroni joked afterward.
Still, despite Seibald’s heroics, he was the first to admit that he didn’t have his best game after the contest was over — he had trouble separating from his defender and keeping the ball in the pocket of his net. For a game that started to spiral into a track meet by the second and third quarters, it was Pittard who guided the Red’s offense all night, reeling them back in toward the end of the game.
“I though Eric managed the game real well which is what we ask of him,” Tambroni said. “He’s more or less the quarterback in the offensive end. We just ask him to manage the pace of the game, manage the matchups of the game, and we thought he did a decent job overall.”
Pittard, aside from his four goals and three assists, controlled the flow of the offense, which spiraled out of control at times throughout the evening. Pittard, described by his teammates and coaches as somewhat soft spoken, spent the whole night yelling, pointing, and more often than anything else, just putting both palms up as if to say “slow down.”
“We were just trying to get set up in the offense so everyone knows what’s going on,” Pittard said. “It’s pretty loud out there so any time we get a chance to talk to coach when the ball’s in our end, we’ll take it.”
Pittard created and finished working from behind the Orangemen’s cage from the opening whistle to the final dog pile after the winning goal. He spent much of his 60 minutes dancing behind the net, playing the two-man game with senior David Mitchell.
“Coach spends a lot of time with us working on a two man game, coming off picks with each other and today I thought we did a great job of just playing within ourselves and allowed our team to win the game,” Pittard said.
One textbook definition of this came at the beginning of the second quarter. Pittard — his gray undershirt perpetually hanging out — held the ball behind the net. Mitchell glided over to set a pick, which Pittard started to use, but backed off when he saw Mitchell’s defender switching off on to him, drawing both defenders with him. Pittard dumped the ball to Mitchell for an uncontested goal.
Pittard also created goals for himself throughout the evening when the Syracuse defense was down a man.
“He’s a guy that is usually going to have more assists than goals, but tonight he did a great job scoring when those opportunities were there,” Tambroni said. “He scored a couple of big ones on extra-man, on our two extra man opportunities.”
Those two third-period goals kept the Red ahead by a goal throughout the third, as the teams traded tallies for most of the 15-minute session.
And while he contributed to the frenetic tempo of the evening, perhaps his biggest contribution was simply slowing things down in the fourth, pacing the offense and directing a more soporific attack. He had a hand in the last three tallies before Seibald’s final goal — putting in a goal from the side, then finding senior Henry Bartlett for a tally after spinning off his defender to quickly attack the goal, before quickly feeding senior Casey Lewis at the top of the key for a goal.
Although Seibald’s goal put an end to a heavy weight battle of two exhausted teams —“We were a couple of teams running out of gas there in regulation,” Tambroni said — Pittard directed and carried the Red’s offense through a tumultuous win.