April 28, 2008

Red Wraps Up Share of Ivy Title

Print More

Last Saturday, the men’s lacrosse team got off the bus at Schoellkopf Field after returning home from Princeton, N.J. Instead of the normal routine — tidying up their stuff and heading home — head coach Jeff Tambroni called the team into the locker room. After an 11-7 loss to Princeton, the squad’s season, the Ivy League title, an NCAA berth, hung in the balance.
“We sat in the locker room for about 20 minutes and just pretty much laid it on the line in terms of the direction of our program,” Tambroni said. “We were either going to start playing more passionately for each other or we were going to continue to plod along.”
Starting Monday, the team got after each other in practice, working with an intensity and drive that players and coaches said has sometimes been missing this year.
“Again, again,” Tambroni would insist, making his team run drills 30-50 times, according to junior co-captain Max Seibald.
What a difference one week makes. Saturday’s 11-7 win over Brown, coupled with Dartmouth’s 11-9 win over Princeton, clinched the Red a share of the Ivy League title. Cornell (10-3, 5-1 Ivy) will share the title with the winner of Brown (10-3, 4-1) and Princeton’s (7-5, 4-1) matchup next weekend.
The win over Brown also went a long way toward securing the Red a coveted NCAA berth. A Brown win next weekend means No. 8 Cornell would get the automatic bid for the Ivy League title (as it owns the tie-breaker against No. 17 Brown). A Princeton win, however, would give the Tigers the automatic bid and the Red would have to hope for an at-large bid, which it would most likely receive.[img_assist|nid=30268|title=Protect the five-hole|desc=Senior goalie Jake Myers (14) registered 13 saves to help Cornell stifle Brown’s offense in the Red’s 11-7 win over the Bears Saturday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Hypotheticals aside, it was the Red’s sixth straight Ivy title and everyone just seemed happy to be back in a position where there is energy on the field and excitement off of it.
“This is the first time this year that we have felt this kind of emotion after a game,” Tambroni said. “In terms of the way our guys competed, this was a quality win for us.”
Led by sophomore Ryan Hurley’s five points as well as three points apiece from seniors John Espey and co-captain John Glynn, the Red rallied from an overall shaky start to force Brown to play catch-up for most of the last three quarters.
Out of the gates, it was Brown making the scrappy plays. The Bears hustled and did a good job of infiltrating Cornell’s defense. After a transition goal, two point-blank goals wrapping around from behind the cage, and a physical sequence where junior defender Matt Moyer was backed into the goal, the Bears had a 4-2 lead. But in a span of 72 seconds, that all changed.
“[Cornell’s attackers are] persistent and patient and they won’t just continue to take those outside shots,” said Brown head coach Lars Tiffany. “They will work for it and they wore us down. … They cracked us inside a few times.”
Suddenly it was Cornell pushing into the crease, making that extra pass. The physicality of the game started working for the Red. The players matched the Bears’ toughness, as both teams shoved and pushed each other a little more than usual — often after the wistle or after the ball had moved on. Senior co-captain Danny Nathan decked Brown goalie Jordan Burke when he came out of the net, and after the halftime buzzer sounded, junior Chris Finn got shoved down intentionally.
Seibald — who moved back to midfield after starting at attack last weekend— asserted himself early as well. With Brown putting a long-stick defender on Glynn instead of Seibald, Seibald had a little more breathing room from the point position. He was able to plant and shoot twice from the same position 10 yards out — he buried the second shot to make it 4-3.
“Our hope was to get a second defender up top. If it was awkward we just decided we would slide early to Max,” Tiffany said. “… There are a couple of shooters that can hit those shots from 10 yards out and Max is one of them — he’s like an animal.”
Perhaps the most impressive goal came 51 seconds later. Freshman middie Shane O’Neill, taking advantage of his playing time, got the ball up top. Bouncing off defenders like a pinball, he oriented himself just long enough to put in a low shot.
Glynn won the ensuing face-off and the Red attack was on the run mere seconds later with Espey leading the charge.
“[Espey] was just running down, and I was yelling at him hold it up, let’s get it settled,” Hurley said. “But he was so determined to get to the goal, and he just really wanted to make a play for the team to get everyone excited. And he just kind of stung that goal in there.”
“We’re up 4-2, and all of a sudden it’s 5-4,” Tiffany said. “The rest of the way it’s Cornell with that little lead. That was big.”
Espey’s energetic play highlighted the mentality the seniors brought to the table Saturday for their last regular-season game at Schoellkopf.
“That was one of the great points for me,” Hurley said. “Just the way he played and the way those seniors played. I just felt they brought it to a whole other level today.”
“Our seniors did a great job of rallying the group this week,” Tambroni said. “We had a fiercely-fought week of practice coming into this game and I think that’s where this game was won.”
Although Cornell never pulled away from Brown, the team’s effort on the ride and one of senior goalie Jake Myers’ best career showings made three- and four-goal leads feel a lot safer. Brown was only 15-of-23 on clears and Myers had 13 saves — five each in the second quarter and fourth quarter, when the Red made its run and then held off a late Brown surge.
“I was seeing the ball, but our defense showed up today — awesome job by them,” Myers said. “But I just wanted to say that our scout team on both sides of the ball just really showed up [this week in practice], and you can see that out there.”
“Give Jake Myers a lot of credit,” Tiffany said. “He’s had some great games and he’s had some so-so games. He brought one of his better games today. I was really impressed with the way Jake was playing in goal, unfortunately for us.”
Myers’ performance was particularly impressive considering he went save-for-save with Brown’s goalie Jordan Burke, who entered the game with the best save percentage in the country. Burke had nine saves, but the Red attackers made the most of their opportunities. Getting quality shots has been an issue at times this year for Cornell, but Saturday the shots all seemed to be on-goal and within 10 yards of the cage.
“In the weeks past we might have been too concerned about making the right play and diagramming and Xs and Os,” Hurley said. “Today, I just felt like we did what coach wanted, and we got back to the basic things. We did the extra things and made the extra pass and that’s how I got open most times in the crease.”