March 14, 2008

For Red, It’s Denver in Dallas

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Dallas. Cornell. Lacrosse.
Dallas is undoubtedly the word that jumps out as not fitting in on that list. But this week, all three will come together as the men’s lacrosse team heads to Dallas to take on Denver in a neutral site game at Highland Park High School. After returning to East Hill, the Red will kick of its Ivy season against Yale.
For Cornell, the Denver game has been a game several years in the works.
“The reality of the situation is we agreed to play them two years ago and then we got Duke on the schedule and asked if we could differ it a year if we could guarantee the Denver coach that we would play them this year,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni.
So last Spring Break, the Red (3-1) traveled to Durham, N.C., and escaped with a 7-6 win against the Blue Devils. This Spring Break, Tambroni is following through on his promise.
“[The game is] good for our program,” Tambroni said. “Especially at this point in the year, we need to find out who we are and challenge ourselves in different ways.”[img_assist|nid=28837|title=Shaq attack|desc=Freshman midfielder Shane O’Neill fights off an Army defender in the Red’s 9-8 win over the Black Knights on March 8.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
That is the mantra Tambroni sticks to after every game — finding out who we are. Denver, he thinks, will help in this search because it is not your typical Ivy League opponent.
Tambroni mentioned that Denver’s strategies take a few pages out of a box lacrosse playbook. Box lacrosse is a version of lacrosse played exclusively in Canada. Box lacrosse is played with hockey-like walls on a hockey-rink sized field — often an actual emptied hockey rink. It’s played six-on-six, with players going both ways on offense and defense, shooting against a 30-second shot clock.
“[Denver] is an opponent that does a lot of things,” he said. “They are good on the ride and they put a ton of pressure on you in the offensive end because they stretch out well. Defensively, they have a lot of Canadian influence. So they do some things that make you think a little bit differently then you would each and every week.”
The Pioneers (3-3) have already beaten Penn and Brown this year by a combined four goals, and lost, 6-5, to North Carolina. The Red dropped a 13-8 matchup with the Tar Heels earlier in the year.
The Pioneers rely on Jamie Lincoln as their main finisher, putting nearly 82 percent of his shots on goal so far this season and netting 12 goals. Charley Dickinson leads Denver in assists with six, one more than the number of shots he has put on goal this year.
The one thing the two teams do share, though, is that Dallas will be a change of pace weather-wise. That wasn’t unintentional.
“We just felt like a neutral site where both teams could go over Spring Break [would be good],” Tambroni. “[We wanted to] find what you hope will be quality practice time and some weather that’s going to be conducive to getting out and teaching, talking. That was probably the seed implanted to let that grow into a game down there.”
And it’s not out of the question to see the team’s excursion as somewhat of a missionary trip.
“Football is still obviously the king [in Texas]… and then some,” Tambroni said. “The football coaches in Texas, from what I hear, don’t encourage their kids to play more than one sport because it is such a grueling 12-year commitment to compete at that level where you’re playing in front of 20,000 people. … So, until the football coaches allow the players to play two sports, it becomes one of those things where it will continue to grow. But in terms of its influence at the Division I level, it will just gets a little bigger each year.”
Cornell will have to devote some of its practice time in Dallas to preparing for it’s Ivy League opener next Saturday against Yale. The Bulldogs and Red will square off at 1 p.m. at Schoellkopf Field.