March 2, 2011

Face-Offs Will Prove Key in Men’s Lax Early Season Bout With Army

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The men’s lacrosse team will head back on the road this weekend for a second straight matchup with an upstate New York foe. On Tuesday, the Red put on a dominant performance in Vestal, N.Y., defeating the Binghamton Bearcats, 13-4. This weekend the Red will enter a more intimidating environment in its second road contest of the season.Cornell (2-0) will meet the Army Black Knights in West Point, N.Y. on Saturday for the team’s first game of the season against a ranked opponent. The Red played well in its victories over Binghamton and Hobart last week, but Army represents a much more formidable competitor. While the Black Knights are 1-2 on the season thus far, the most recent of those losses came on the road in a close contest against the top-ranked Syracuse Orange. In that game last Sunday, Army overcame a six-point first quarter deficit and nearly defeated the powerhouse Syracuse program for a second consecutive time.In last year’s NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Division I tournament, Army produced the first shocking upset of the championship bracket, defeating the 2008 and 2009 national champion in overtime.“They’re very similar to [us],” said junior attackman and co-captain Rob Pannell. “They pride themselves on the details, are a very disciplined team and very hard workers. Having to match that intensity and then some in order to win is the biggest challenge … They take pride in winning and not letting people come into their stadium and get any wins, or an easy win.”“They’re great off the ground and with ground balls,” said junior attackman Scott Austin. “They like to push transition a lot.”Saturday’s game will be the first home matchup for the Black Knights, who have seen their program rise considerably over the past few years. Senior attackman Jeremy Boltus and sophomore attackman Garret Thul lead a modest Black Knights offense that has managed less than nine goals per game. Boltus leads the team with 12 points, while Thul has a team high six goals. Senior goalkeeper Tom Palesky anchors a stout Army defense that has surrendered less than eight goals per game.    In challenging that tough West Point defense, the Red will look to Pannell to power the offensive charge. Stepping into a team leadership role after the graduation of Tewaaraton Trophy winner Max Seibald ’09, Pannell has been sensational thus far this season. Pannell, the 2010 first-team All-American and Ivy League Player of the Year, leads the Red in goals (five), points (14) and shots (15), and has become an early season favorite for the “Heisman of lacrosse.” In Tuesday’s defeat of Binghamton, Pannell led all players with three goals and five assists, en route to a decisive Cornell victory, 13-4.“We prepared through scrimmages and fall ball in travelling. We have a businesslike mentality in away games,” Pannell said, in reference to the team’s focus and mindset for its first overnight trip of the regular season.Face-off opportunities may likely play a key factor in what team develops an edge in the upcoming contest. The Black Knights were overmatched against Syracuse in face-offs, wining only 9-of-23 such opportunities, which ultimately contributed prevented their comeback attempts. Cornell meanwhile, converted 12-of-15 of its face-off opportunities against the Bearcats, with junior Mitch McMichael going a perfect 8-for-8.The team, however, is more focused on its overall game plan and execution, as opposed to such specific matchups.“[We are] just focusing on ourselves and what we can do to get better,” Pannell said. “Playing that ‘complete game’ is the one thing we really want to focus on.” “In every area were just looking to get better each week,” Austin added. The game is set to begin at 12 p.m. on Saturday at West Point’s Michie Stadium.

Original Author: Holden Steinhauer