May 1, 2008

Seniors Lead Team From Front Lines

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Lacrosse players aren’t supposed to be sappy, lacrosse players aren’t supposed to be sad — but it is with a heavy heart that the younger players will soon say goodbye to the Class of 2008, if not after the game against Hobart, then as far along the line as possible. (In the playoffs, it’s a good sign to have to keep putting off those final goodbyes.)
This year, Cornell will lose nine men, valuable athletes every one of them — from twin midfielders Mike and Tom Corbolotti to loyal attacker John Espey to first-year starting goalie Jake Myers. This is a class that will be missed. (But there’s no whining in lacrosse, either.)
“I think that just like every year, every single guy is replaceable,” said senior defender Danny Nathan. “Sometimes it takes a little longer [to do so for certain players] than for others.”
The team they leave behind will be vastly changed by their influence, their hard work and their leadership — values the seniors tried to instill in those below them, not just with words but by actively leading by example.
“The way that [the seniors] have been able to lead the team” has been essential, according to junior attacker Matt Moyer. “[They] don’t just talk about what we need to do, they actually go out and lead the way.”
“I think [the senior class’s] leadership will definitely be missing [at the start of next year],” Nathan said, though he added, in the tone of a true stoic, “there will be new leaders next year. The leadership of the senior class is being pushed down [to younger generations on the team].”
This has been a roller coaster of a season. Unlike last year, when the Red rolled over so many of its opponents, Cornell has had a hard time getting in the groove all season long. It was still trying to replace the previous senior class, one that had included multiple All-Americans from both the offense and defense.[img_assist|nid=30398|title=Hit me with your best shot|desc=Senior John Glynn (20) is one of nine seniors on the men’s lacrosse team.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“I definitely think that of all the years, this has been the one with the most new starters on the field,” Nathan said. “We had to replace such a big class last year — there were a lot of fresh faces on the field during [first game of the season against] Navy.”
Teams that should have been easy wins made comebacks, mistakes were made on both sides of the field and all of a sudden, last year’s NCAA finalists were staring at the possibility of not making the playoffs. In a move that is not surprising to anyone who knows them, the seniors stepped in.
“Before the Brown game, we all met up to discuss how to approach [the game],” Nathan said. “The guys have definitely stepped up, both on the field and off.”
Head coach Jeff Tambroni has had nothing but good things to say about this team as the season winds down. During Senior Week, he praised the individual athletes for their contributions to the Cornell lacrosse program, saying that they had definitely left the Red better off then they had found it, which in Tambroni’s opinion, is the hallmark of an impressive senior class.
“We just need to continue to maximize our potential,” Nathan said. “One game at a time, one practice at a time. If we do this, I think we can go far. We want to take this as far as we can,” he said, saying that the team’s ultimate goal is, of course, a NCAA championship.
The legacy that this particular class will leave behind, however, on top of the superior play exhibited by its athletes, is the work ethic of the players, and the way they put the good of the team above all else.
Moyer remembers running drills at the beginning of freshmen year. Some of the younger guys were having a hard time finishing them. They were falling down and generally not able to keep up with the older guys. Some of the then-sophomores literally carried freshmen on their backs through to the end of the drills.
“They had guys by the shirts, they were pushing us through,” Moyer said. “They were doing whatever it took to get us to finish with the team.”
This is a squad that was there for one of Cornell lacrosse’s proudest eras, as well as one of its most disappointing defeats. It has been an experience none of these men is likely to forget anytime soon, if ever.
“Cornell lacrosse has honestly, truly changed my life,” Nathan said. “When I look back on it, the overall work ethic [learned over the years] will carry on with us for the rest of our lives. We’ve all battled some tough times. Personally, I had a very rough freshman year. But we’ve showed how you can battle though diversity. You just put your head down and let it drive you to work harder.”