March 23, 2009

Sweet Revenge: M. Lax Defeats Blue Devils

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Just a general warning: Max Seibald holds grudges. Apparently, so does the rest of the men’s lacrosse team. Tuesday, the No. 8 Duke (6-3) lacrosse team found this out the hard way, succumbing to a focused and cohesive Red squad, 10-6, and allowing No. 3/4 Cornell (5-1, 1-0 Ivy) a feeling of at least partial vindication following the Blue Devils’ two stinging victories in the 2005 and 2007 NCAA tournaments, including the heartbreaking one-point win in the semifinals two years ago. The Red then rode its momentum to a 15-8 win over Ivy rival Yale (3-2, 1-1 Ivy) to kick off its Ivy League season on Saturday in New Haven, Conn.
For senior captain Seibald, the win was the perfect way to kick off the team’s spring break, which they take together every season as a way to practice, as well as grow closer as a team in general.
“We were very happy with the way [the break] worked out,” Seibald said. “Two wins and a lot of team bonding. You’re stuck with the guys for 10 days, 24 hours a day. You’re forced to get to know each other on and off the field.”
The Duke win, of course, had a special significance.
“[Duke] is one of the matches we’ve been looking forward to for a while,” he said. “Especially for the older guys. We really wanted to get back at them.”
Freshman attackman Rob Pannell, who had so far only heard stories about the Duke-Cornell rivalry, said the entire team was invested in the match and wanted to beat the Blue Devils on their home turf.
“It definitely was an important game for us as a team to win,” Pannell said.
The Red was aided by a strong defensive effort which kept the Blue Devil frustrated throughout much of the first half and into the third period. Cornell held Duke scoreless for a crucial 22-minute period during the second and third periods. [img_assist|nid=36140|title=Into his own hands|desc=Senior Max Seibald scored three goals and added two assists in the Red’s win over Duke.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The Red also benefited from another outstanding performance by senior goalie Kyle Harer, who made 17 saves, a career-high.
“[Kyle’s] performance was unbelievable,” Seibald said, “Holding Duke to [so few goals] when they have such a high-powered offense. I think that was the key to that game — our defense and our goalie’s play.”
On the offensive end, Seibald and junior attackman Ryan Hurley combined for Cornell’s first eight goals, with Seibald scoring three in the first 12 minutes of the match. He also added a pair of assists to register five points on the night. Pannell solidified his position as an early front-runner for Rookie of the Year with three assists. Pannell, who leads the nation in both points and assists per game, set the school record for assists by a freshman in a single season — and Cornell’s season is far from over.
Duke out-shot the Red, however, 37-30, while also leading the tally in ground balls, 33-26, and in face offs (8-of-17).
“[Duke] is really a great team,” Seibald said. “We knew it was going to be a tough battle, and it was.”
Cornell was first to draw blood in the contest, as Seibald took advantage of an early Duke penalty. Duke scored the next two, however, earning a 2-1 lead with 11:20 in the first period — a lead that was erased by the next Seibald score less than five minutes later.
Goals from Hurley and yet another from Seibald gave the Red a 4-2 lead going into the second period.
The Blue Devils tried to get a run going at the start of the second quarter following a quick goal one minute in, but any momentum Duke thought it may have earned was erased decisively by Hurley, who picked an opportune moment to go on a three-goal tear, with Cornell cradling a 6-3 lead going into the locker rooms.
With the exception of a Duke goal with just over six minutes to go in the third, Cornell scored the next four goals, extending what turned out to be an insurmountable 10-4 lead with a little over three minutes left in the match.
The match against Yale may have come with slightly less baggage, but the two teams’ last meeting was not without its own share of drama — Cornell took an 8-7 overtime win at Schoellkopf Field last season. The Bulldogs were also coming off a dramatic victory of their own, a 14-13 overtime win to start its Ivy season off against Penn last weekend.
But past history or not, Seibald said that at the end of the day, Cornell knew it would have to come out and play well to advance past a strong Bulldogs squad.
“When you get to the Ivy season, everybody steps up,” Seibald said. “And I think that we especially have an ‘X’ on our backs … these teams come out to play.”
The first period of the match proved to be closely contested, with a strong third and fourth periods making the difference.
The team was led by senior midfielder John Glynn, who scored two goals, assisted two more, and won 13-of-19 face off. Pannell also impressed with three goals and one assist, while Hurley scored three more, senior middle Rocco Romero added two goals and four more Cornell players, including Seibald, scored one apiece.
Harer started in goal for the Red, where he made 10 saves, and allowed just six goals before being replaced by classmate Jake Myers.
Unlike the Duke game, Cornell held the edge in all major categories against Yale, including shots (53-33), ground balls (47-31) and face offs. The Red also forced 23 turnovers, frustrating a large proportion of the Bulldogs’ clearing efforts.
However, despite the ultimate score, Yale managed to stay close to Cornell in the first half, keeping the score at 4-3 going into halftime.
Seibald said he felt the offense was not working enough as a cohesive unit during the first half, and was focusing too much on the individual effort.
“A couple of us weren’t hitting shots, we just weren’t playing the game our coaches wanted us to play.”
Pannell said he thought the Red came out strong at the start of the first half, and then backed off following a quick 3-0 scoring run, allowing the Bulldogs back in the game.
But the team remembered the way that Yale had almost come back against them last year, something that had also been emphasized during the practices leading up to the match on Saturday, and came out of the break determined to put the Bulldogs away for good.
“We learned that if we let opponents stay around they will,” he said. “But we have the ability to not let them stay around.”
The second half however showcased a team that played with a lot more teamwork and emphasis on the collective and the big picture, as well an aggressive intensity that included an overwhelming, 10-1 scoring run over the third and fourth quarters.
“In the second half we came out attacking full force,” Pannell said. “We just kept coming at them. We didn’t back off at all.”