March 17, 2011

DeLuca Confident in Team Entering Spring Break

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As Cornell winter sports teams head into the postseason portion of their schedules, the men’s lacrosse squad finds itself at a pivotal point of the regular season entering Spring Break. The Red (3-2) will look to prove itself against three Top-20 teams, coming off a heartbreaking loss, 11-9, to No. 2 Virginia last weekend.

No. 12/9 Cornell will go back on the road for the earlier part of the break, as it first travels to New Haven, Conn. to take on No. 16/17 Yale on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Bulldogs (4-0) have started things off with a solid, unbeaten beginning to the season, but will receive their first true test of the season against the Red — their first nationally ranked opponent of the year — in the opener of Ivy League play for both teams.

Yale’s strength comes most notably on its opponent’s side of the field — the Bulldogs are currently slated at No. 1 in the country in scoring offense and No. 2 in scoring defense.

“[Yale has] done a fantastic … job in the early part of their schedule and playing at home I’m sure they’re going to be very motivated,” said head coach Ben DeLuca ’98. “They bring in a very dangerous offense with [Matt] Gibson and [Brian] Douglass down on the attack.”

Douglass ranks second in the country in points per game with 4.75, right behind Cornell’s junior attackman and co-captain Rob Pannell, who averages 5.60.

Right behind Douglass is Kevin Crowley of Stony Brook, coming in with 4.67 points per game. Crowley is a key part of a Stony Brook squad that will be Cornell’s second opponent over Spring Break, when plays another road match, travelling to Stony Brook, N.Y. to take on the No. 5 Seawolves Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Although they fall slightly bellow Yale’s No. 1 spot in scoring offense, Stony Brook (3-1) still posts a solid seventh-ranked offensive attack, placing three spots above Cornell. The Seawolves’ season to date is marked by a strong opening game, despite the ‘L’ on the score sheet, as the team played a hard game against Virginia that resulted in a narrow overtime defeat, 11-10.

“[Stony Brook is] fantastic,” DeLuca said of Stony Brook’s squad. “They have one of the best midfielders in the country in Crowley … They returned the majority of their talent, particularly in the offensive end from last year, and they were a handful last year.”

DeLuca added that it will be a test for Cornell’s squad to handle Stony Brook’s offense at the Seawolves’ LaValle Stadium.

Situated on Long Island, LaValle Stadium will also host an exciting fan base for both teams, as several Red players have origins from that part of New York; however, this will not be the focus of the team as it travels to Stony Brook.

“We like to play on the Island, it’s a great recruiting area. We do have some guys on our team from Long Island and I do think they enjoy going home and playing there, but we’re not looking too deeply into that,” DeLuca said. “We’re looking more at a very talented and dangerous opponent and for a win that our program really needs to get.”

After these two opponents, Cornell will finally be able to return home to Schoellkopf Field where it will host No. 18/13 Penn in another Ivy contest.  The Quakers (3-2) started the season strong as they upset last year’s tournament winner, Duke, 7-3.

“Coach Murphy’s doing a great job there with his staff and his players, so we’re excited to again get another opportunity in the league, this time at home,” DeLuca said.

Heading into these three highly anticipated contests over break, Cornell looks to improve on a few key areas of play.

“Face-offs and wing play are some things thdat we’re really putting a lot of focus and energy to work on just because we feel that that’s something we need to work on,” DeLuca said, adding that shooting is something that the Red could have capitalized on during its two losses on the season.

Finally, as the team continues to adjust to the 2011 season, communication will remain a key factor in improving the strength of this year’s squad, and Cornell hopes to see improvements on all fronts over the course of these next three matchups.

Original Author: Reena Gilani