February 27, 2009

Men’s Lacrosse to Take On Army at West Point

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The sun came out of hiding yesterday, and in an uncharacteristic gesture of goodwill, embraced the men’s lacrosse team with its tepid —but very welcome — rays. While not technically its season opener owing to the team’s dominant, 18-6, win last week over Binghamton, the Red will not have much time to enjoy Ithaca’s spontaneous hot flash, as it will be traveling to West Point this Saturday for what is essentially the team’s first real challenge of the season. No. 4/6 Cornell (1-0) will be challenging the home team, Army (1-1), which is coming off a tough, 17-6, loss last week to No. 1/2 Syracuse. [img_assist|nid=35609|title=Stick ’em up|desc=Senior captain Max Seibald (42) dodges a Brown opponent during last season’s matchup|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
This year will mark the 70th meeting for the two teams. The Red and Black Knights have been battling it out since 1938, with Army holding the overall series lead; however, the Red has since taken the last three matches in a row –– including two very close contests last season –– all of which is fairly irrelevant in the steady eyes of head coach Jeff Tambroni, who is not exactly one to place much stock in past history. Tambroni, who recorded his 85th win against Binghamton, currently ranks fifth in the nation in winning percentage among active Division I coaches, with .739.
Despite its recent loss, Tambroni said that this Army team should not be underestimated.
“There are not a lot of teams in the country that can keep up with Syracuse,” he said, warning about reading too much into the Black Knights’ last performance. “The score against Syracuse is extremely misleading.”
Senior captain and midfielder Max Seibald elaborated on his coach’s comments.
“I think that this early in the season, ratings count for very little,” he said. “[Army] is one of the toughest teams out there.”
In fact, Tambroni said, the loss to the Orange may have made Army that much more of a threat. “[Army] is in a position to be very hungry,” he said. And the Red have to play at the Academy’s always raucous Mitchie Stadium, a “challenge in itself,” Tambroni said.
However, this is not to say that the Red isn’t also looking for a chance to prove itself.
“We will hopefully be a hungry team as well,” Tambroni said. “We’re still trying to trying to prove to everyone that we belong among the nation’s elite.”
Army is led by a strong attack, featuring star sophomore attacker Jeremy Boltus, who leads the team with 20 points, including three goals and seven assists.
“[Army] plays extremely well together,” Tambroni said. “They are very well coached.”
In fact, the Red and the Black Knights have a lot of things in common as far as Tambroni is concerned –– both teams work hard, and work well together.
“Army is very focused,” Seibald said. “They focus on the details, and they are very disciplined — on offense and defense.”
“These are two evenly-matched teams,” he said. “In a lot of ways, we’re mirror images of each other.”
While the Red has more experience around the middle area, Army benefits from a strong defensive core that has survived the graduation of many seniors last year.
The key, according to Tambroni, will be team play.
“If you don’t play together, you’ll be exposed,” he said. You don’t want it to get into a one-on-one battle.”
All week, the team has been trying to improve on the various aspects of its game it took issue with during the match against Binghamton. These areas include being more disciplined on offense — not striking the first shot available, but the best shot — as well as making every possession truly count.
“We know this is a very good team,” Seibald said. “In no way are we underestimating them. [During the week] we’ve watched film on them, and picked up on some of their tendencies. We feel confident, but there are no flat out advantages between the two teams.”