April 25, 2008

M. Lax in Must-Win Against Brown

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The “must-win game.” It’s the kind of game that makes fans squirm in anxious excitement and coaches secretly clutch their clipboards with whitened knuckles. Last weekend the men’s lacrosse team lost to Princeton, snapping the Red’s 14-game Ivy win streak and putting its own back against the wall. No. 8 Cornell must win this Saturday against No. 17 Brown in order to have a hope of securing a share of the Ivy League title, and increases its chances of receiving a NCAA bid.
The Red (9-3, 4-1 Ivy) is currently in second place, behind both Brown and Princeton. If Cornell beats Brown the Bears upset Princeton next weekend, Cornell, Princeton and Brown would share the title three ways.
Cornell has not fallen out of the top-10 rankings in over three years, since 2005. A win “The expectations of our program — over 100 years of lacrosse at Cornell — and you get to the point where you are representing a legacy,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “Every game becomes a must-win for you.”
This game has special significance for nine members of the team, as this weekend’s contest is the last home game of the season and the team will be celebrating the careers of a very influential senior class, including standouts Drew Webb, John Glynn and John Espey.[img_assist|nid=30223|title=On the lookout|desc=Junior Rocco Romero and the Red attack will try to be more cohesive against Brown. Last weekend the Red was hurt by its lack of team play.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“You’d like to win every game. This is a game where we’re really going to have to look inside ourselves.”
Tambroni said that the team knew what had gone wrong in the game against Princeton and that they were mentally and physically prepared to fix those mistakes.
“Last weekend we didn’t feel like we played very hard,” he said. “The discouraging facet of that game was not so much that we lost, but how we competed.”
Senior attack Max Seibald attributed last weekend’s loss to a lack of team play, and the team’s neglect of the basics.
“We just haven’t been making the team plays, the things that define Cornell lacrosse. We need to just play a hard brand of lacrosse, making sure that everyone knows their responsibilities on the field. We were just playing sloppy.”
Seibald pointed to offensive production as an area that team needed to improve before Saturday.
“This week in practice we’ve been emphasizing moving off the ball, and making opportunities for each other,” Seibald said, also mentioning the need to improve fast breaks and capitalize on man-up situations.
“We just need to do a better job of playing to our potential,” Tambroni said. “How can we do that? We need to do a better job of executing in practice. We’re trying to work on everything. There’s no one facet that we’re really pleased with. We’re on the edge of a lot of things.”
Tambroni said that despite the discouraging results of the last match, the team has not let the added pressure get to them.
“To our guys’ credit, they’ve bounced back quickly,” he said. “Sometimes coming off of a loss, your focus is a little sharper.”
Cornell’s recent losses have highlighted a couple of major problems the team has been trying to address this week. Against Syracuse and Princeton, the Red got behind earlier in the game and was unable to mount an effective comeback.
“[Against Syracuse] we got down, but we need to do a better job of seizing the moment when it’s happening. We’re not preparing to go down early, we need be prepared for all circumstances. We need to be more mentally resilient.”
No matter the outcome of the game, emotions will be running high on the Red sidelines as Senior Week comes to a close.
“It is Senior Week and everybody knows it,” Seibald said. “But we’re really focusing on the game. All of the seniors have really been stepping up and taking on a greater leadership role [this week in practice],” he added. “The seniors have been doing a really great job.”
“It’s a pretty emotion-filled day, and a sad day,” Tambroni said. “For all of us it’s a day full of mixed emotions. [The seniors] have definitely left Cornell lacrosse better than they found it.”