May 2, 2007

M. Lax’s Seniors Lead Red On and Off Field

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This week is full of lasts — the last days of class, the last Washington Wizards game of the year and the last of three weeks that Disturbia will be No. 1 at the box office. This Friday will also be the last regular season game for the 11 seniors on the men’s lacrosse team. From goalie to close defenders to long-stick midfielders to the two midfield lines to the attack, these 11 seniors have been an integral part of the team’s success both this season and throughout their careers.
Looking back over their four years, a watershed moment for the class occurred in only its fourth game of its freshman season, when George Boiardi ’04 died during a game against Binghamton. That moment brought the entire team — and what was then the freshmen class — together as a group.
“Freshman year with George, that sticks out in our minds,” said senior co-captain Matt McMonagle. “It really just set the tone for the relationships we have had for the next three and a half years. Before that we were coming together as a class, but that accelerated the process.”
Over the years that followed, the seniors have grown together as a group, living together, practicing together and being around each other all the time.
“I think we are a very close class,” said senior Ethan Vedder. “Together as a class, we spend a lot of time together. Most of us have come through since the beginning, since freshman year.”
The relationships that the group has forged together have transferred onto the field as well.
“Just being close like that helps you to be brutally honest with each other,” said senior David Mitchell. “Realizing that it is not going to affect anything off the field, you can be very constructively critical without really hard feelings at the end of the day. … We know that we are good friends and nothing can come between us.”
Over the four years, the group has put up 43 total wins with only 11 losses. They have at least shared the Ivy League title all four years, and have won the championship out right twice. This season, the team went undefeated in its Ivy campaign for only the second time since 1988.
“I hear multiple stories about guys bugging each other about wins and losses in the 1980s,” Mitchell said. “It is nice to know that we worked hard together and we won. This year we can say that we beat everyone in the Ivy League.”
As a class, the group’s number has changed over the years, including some additions here and there that have instantly become part of the group.
“We had a much bigger class of 14 guys when we started,” said senior co-captain Mitch Belisle. “We lost quite a few who left the team, but we gained a walk-on and two transfers. … We have been lucky enough to get a lot of wins along the way and have some great seasons.”
One of those new players has been senior Eric Pittard, who transferred to Cornell from Virginia before his junior season after seeing limited playing time for the Cavaliers. After a strong junior season, Pittard has improved this year, quarterbacking a starting attack unit that has combined for 83 goals.
“I was definitely a little nervous coming in,” Pittard said. “I knew a couple of guys on the team, but they were younger because I went to high school with some of them. The whole team, especially my class, did a great job of letting me into their group of friendships, so it was a very easy transition for me.”
Over the years, the group has accumulated a number of honors. McMonagle was named first-team All-Ivy in 2005 and 2006 and Belisle and Mitchell made the team last season. Earlier this year, McMonagle and Mitchell, along with sophomore Max Seibald, were among the 17 players nominated for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the top lacrosse player in the nation.
The seniors also make an impact on the stat sheet. Pittard leads the team with 20 assists and 47 points while Mitchell leads the squad with 32 goals. Four of the top-6 point scorers on Cornell are seniors. Despite the honors, statistics and accolades, the 11 seniors — Henry Bartlett, Belisle, Brian Clayton, Casey Lewis, McMonagle, Mitchell, Todd Olson, Pittard, Tim Randall, Matt Robbins and Vedder — will finish their careers as a cohesive group.
“At the beginning of the year we had a meeting with the coaches and you could feel that we were thinking the same things,” Belisle said. “We have helped to lead the team as a whole senior class and not just as individuals.”