April 18, 2008

M. Lax Travels to Tiger Territory

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It is the battle of the undefeated Ivy League titans this weekend, as Cornell takes on Princeton, one of the three undefeated teams currently in the Ivy League. Halfway through the Ivy season, there is both pride and the Ivy title at stake. Princeton and Brown are the only other teams, besides Cornell, who haven’t lost any games yet in the Ancient Eight.
The Red (9-2, 4-0 Ivy) is looking to extend its Ivy League winning streak to 14 wins. Cornell has claimed at least a share of the Ivy title for the past five seasons — the longest active stretch by any team in any conference currently.
“It’s a big game,” said junior midfielder Max Seibald. “No matter how you look at it, it’s a big game.”
Head coach Jeff Tambroni will be going up against Princeton skipper Bill Tierney, who has the second-best winning percentage among active coaches in Division I men’s lacrosse. His winning percentage, .745, is just .001 points better than Tambroni.
The No. 3/4 Red is coming off a 16-11 victory against Dartmouth last Saturday, but the No. 17 Tigers (6-4, 3-0 Ivy) are a formidable opponent in their own right.
“Princeton is a great team,” said junior attacker Matt Moyer. “We know we have to expect their best outing of the year.” [img_assist|nid=29977|title=Flap those Finns|desc=Junior attacker Chris Finn (left) keeps his eye on a Dartmouth player during Cornell’s 16-11 win Saturday. Finn is second on the team in goals with 19.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Although Princeton is the only Ivy team to boast a winning record against Cornell’s men’s lacrosse program, the Red has won the last four matches between the two squads. Between the two rivals are all but 10 Ivy League lacrosse titles, making this game an anticipated, albeit early, indicator of the playoff picture.
“Every time we go against Princeton, we always know it is a huge battle,” Moyer said. “It’s a big game in regards to the Ivy League championship. This game has huge importance. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. I think [the Tigers] are better than they seem.”
The last time the two teams played each other Cornell was ranked No.1 as it took down the then-No. 5 Princeton in front of over 10,000 Cornell supporters at Schoellkopf Field. Goaltender Matt McMonagle ’07 carried the Red, matching a career-best 19 saves going up against then-junior Tigers’ goalie Alex Hewit, considered one of the best goalies in the contest, a 10-6 Red victory.
Cornell is coming off a big win last week against Dartmouth. The Red defeated the Green 16-11 at home. The confidence building victory showcased sophomore attacker Ryan Hurley’s career best nine points, although the Red allowed Dartmouth to fight back within three goals at the start of the fourth quarter. Cornell was happy to get the win, but head coach Jeff Tambroni was quick to let reporters know that the team would be working hard in practice this week in anticipation of the Princeton game, something, Moyer said, really paid off.
“This week we’ve had a full week of preparation,” he said. “We really dug in and we really focused on the things we need to work on.”
Seibald said that the team has been watching a lot of film and just repeating various points over and over in order to solidify them in each other’s minds. Repetition, he said, is key.
“We’ve been picking up on things we haven’t been doing right,” Seibald said. “We’ve put a lot of pressure on each other in practice all week long. We practice so hard and the coaches push us so hard that when we go out and play it’s not even that hard anymore.”
On top off Tambroni, who always seems to be reaching some milestone with each new game he wins, the Red has a number of players approaching personal records. Hurley is closing in on 40 goals for Cornell, with 36 so far. With an average of 3.27 goals per game, Hurley should reach this career mark somewhere in the very near future. Hurley would be among elite Cornell company—only 10 other Red lacrosse players have earned 40 goals.
Seibald too is cultivating a statistical coup of his own, as he currently holds the longest point-scoring streak on the team, 6th longest in the nation at 30 games so far and counting.
“Statistics can really bring a team down,” Seibald said. “One thing’s that great about the team now is that we’re unselfish. We’re always looking to get a lot of team stats, to score a lot as a team.”
Although the team is taking each game is stride, the specter of the game against Brown, the other undefeated team in the Ivy League always looms in the distance for this young team, even if they won’t admit it.
“You have to win practically every game in order to win the Ivy League championship,” Seibald said. “We have four bricks laid down [on the road to the Ivy title] but we have two more to go. In order to get to the sixth brick you have to first get to the fifth.”