February 29, 2008

M. Lax Looks for Win at Chapel Hill

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Every game’s a big game in the world of men’s lacrosse. Coming off a close win over Navy two weekends ago, Cornell is looking to start its season 2-0, with a match Sunday against No. 7 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. A win would give head coach Jeff Tamboni his 75th career win, as well as increase Cornell’s series lead with the Tar Heels to 5-2.
The last time the two teams met, in 2005, Cornell (1-0) was hampered by a two-quarter scoring drought that the Red was unable to recover from. Despite out shooting North Carolina (2-0) overall, 33-30, as well as holding an edge in ground balls (45-40), the Red fell 9-5.
Cornell was ranked No. 10, and North Carolina No. 19 the last time the two teams battled. This year, the two teams are far closer in the rankings, with a mere two spots separating the Tar Heels from the Red, No. 5/6.
“North Carolina is one of the top teams in the league so far,” said junior midfielder Max Seibald. “They are just a very strong team overall. They have one of the top face-off guys in the country, if not the top guy, overall. They have a great defense, and a very good offense. I’m really looking to the match-up.”
Gavin Petracca and Sean Delaney lead the Tar Heels with five points, and the goalie, Grant Zimmerman, has started both games for the Tar Heels and has made 16 saves. He currently has a 3.94 goals-against average and a .696 save percentage.
Cornell has had a week off, owing to last week’s home contest against Binghamton being cancelled because of inclement weather. The team has been using the time to prepare for what will doubtless be a good competition in North Carolina.
“We’re just focusing a lot on trying to improve from our match against Navy,” said Seibald. “We’ve been watching a lot of film about what we did wrong.”
Cornell started the game against Navy quickly, but struggled through the game with scoring, and creating good opportunities on the offensive end of the field.
“We have to play more as a unit,” Seibald said, if the team wants to correct the problems from the Navy game. “We need to rely more on each other and be more confident. We need to pick up the pace, and not be afraid to fail.”
The offense has been too timid, lately, Seibald elaborated. It needs to take the initiative to create opportunities.
“If you see an opportunity, instead of hesitating, you just need to take it, if it’s a smart opportunity,” Seibald said. “Don’t be afraid.”
Seibald said that the defense has been working hard in preparation. “They are just trying to pay a very solid defensive game,” he said. “There are six guys, plus the goalie, versus six guys [on offense]. If the guys work together, they should have no trouble defending.”
The team has also been working on some special techniques in order to counteract the dominance of the Tar Heels in the face-off circle. Shane Walterhoefer has taken all but three face-offs for UNC, going 20-for-32 with a .625 win percentage.
“We have a number of face-off guys, not just one,” Seibald said. “We have been watching film on what [Walterhoefer] does, to try and minimize the impact of his moves. We’re pretty confident that if we beat him off the draw, we can tie them up to prevent them from any breakaway opportunities.”