April 20, 2007

M. Laxers Prepare for Battle Against Tigers

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What would happen if the 2000 offensive juggernaut St. Louis Rams lined up against the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers “Steel Curtain” defense? Tomorrow, a similar question will be answered when the men’s lacrosse team, which boasts the No. 1 offense in the country, battles Princeton’s No. 1 defense.
No. 1 Cornell leads the nation with 14.9 goals per game, while the No. 5 Tigers give up only 5.5 goals per game, the lowest average in the country.
“This late in the season, any top-5 matchup is obviously a very big game,” said senior co-captain Matt McMonagle. “Additionally, it is an Ivy League game, and whoever wins this is going to have a good shot of winning the league. So, we definitely think it’s the biggest game of the year so far.”
Cornell (10-0, 4-0 Ivy) is coming off a 17-3 victory over Dartmouth. Senior David Mitchell scored five goals and classmate Eric Pittard notched three of his own. Sophomore Max Seibald handed out a team-high three assists. The Red’s defense held the Green’s two top offensive threats, senior Nick Bonacci and freshman Ari Sussman, to a combined one point. McMonagle made 11 saves and only let in three goals, the fewest goals he has allowed all season. Mitchell was named Ivy League Player of the Week for his efforts.
[img_assist|nid=23041|title=Stop This.|desc=Junior Midfielder John Glynn (20) will lead the Red against the No. 1 Princeton defense tomorrow.|link=node|align=left|width=100|height=79]This week, Cornell also found out that Mitchell, McMonagle and Seibald were among the 17 nominees for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the top player in the nation. The five finalists for the award will be named later in the season.
Princeton (8-2, 3-0) is currently riding a seven-game winning streak that includes a victory over Syracuse. Princeton’s only two losses of the season came at the hands of Johns Hopkins and Virginia, who currently are the No. 7 and No. 4 teams in the country, respectively. Both losses were by a score of 7-6 and the Johns Hopkins game went to double overtime.
“They are a very good team in pretty much all aspects,” said senior co-captain Mitch Belisle. “Their defense is very good and they have a very good coach. … We have to play as a team to be able to beat them.”
Princeton’s stingy defense relies on senior Zachary Jungers and junior Dan Cocoziello. Jungers was a pre-season second-team All-American and has picked up 21 ground balls this year, to go along with one assist. Cocoziello, a preseason first-team All-American, has 23 ground balls this season.
On the attack, senior Peter Trombino, who was named a preseason second-team All-American, leads Princeton with 22 goals and 29 total points. Sophomore Tommy Davis has handed out a team-high 12 assists for the Tigers. Cornell will also have to watch out for sophomore Mark Kovler, who has tallied 17 goals this year.
“I think our offense has obviously done well, but they have a very good defense, so that is going to be a good test of our offense,” McMonagle said. “Their offense is starting to play well as of late as well so I think it is going to be a big test for our defense. … I am pretty sure it is going to be a close game.”
Between the pipes, Princeton boasts junior Alex Hewit, a first-team All-American last year and a first-team pre-season All-American this season. So far, Hewit has started all 10 games for the Tigers and recorded a 5.60 goals against average and a .627 save percentage.
At the face off “X,” junior Alex Berg has taken the bulk of face offs this year for Princeton, winning 59-112 for a .527 percentage. Senior Mike DeSantis has won 28-52 face offs on the year, good for a .538 percentage.
Last season, Cornell edged Princeton, 4-3, on the road. Mitchell scored two goals, including the game-winner with 4:02 left. Derek Haswell ’06 also notched two scores for the Red and McMonagle made five saves to help preserve the victory. Kovler led the Tigers with a goal and an assist and Hewit made 15 saves. The Red’s defense held Trombino without a point for the first time in his career.
At halftime of tomorrow’s game, Cornell will honor the 1977 men’s lacrosse team which was undefeated and won the National Championship. A number of players from that team will be in attendance for the tribute.
“Those guys are around quite a bit and talk to us a lot about how much the tradition of Cornell lacrosse meant to them, and how big of a part winning was for them and how it made their relationships so much stronger,” Belisle said. “Hopefully, we will have the support of them in the stands, and them talking to us Friday will get us fired up for the game.”