April 28, 2011

Red Hosts Princeton With Ivy Win Streak on Line

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In its final matchup of the regular season, the men’s lacrosse team will host a home game at Schoellkopf Field for the first time in 35 days — the longest such streak in program history for the Red. No. 3/2 Cornell will host Ivy League rival Princeton Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in the final game of the regular season for both Ancient Eight squads.

The Red (10-2, 5-0 Ivy League) enters the game after defeating Brown in Providence, R.I., last weekend, in an over-powering victory, 18-5. With that win, Cornell won the Ivy League title outright, and was given both the top seed and home field advantage in the impending Ivy League postseason tournament. Princeton (4-7, 2-3) will take the field in desperate need of earning the ‘W’, with the No. 4 seed in the Ivy tournament on the line.

“Princeton will also be stressing the importance of the game because it could potentially be their seniors’ last game,” said junior attackman and co-captain Rob Pannell. “[A team] always stresses to have at least one more game for those older guys.”

As such, the long-lasting Cornell-Princeton rivalry will have many additional implications in the last game of the season. The Red, while secure in the standings, has hopes of completing two goals it set at the start of the season — to finish the year undefeated at home, and go unbeaten in the Ivy League. Both of those objectives remain intact, but still hinge upon the outcome of Saturday’s game.

Princeton holds the slight edge in the overall series with Cornell (37-33-2), as the Tigers remain the only team in the Ivy League with a winning record over the Red. The Tigers — often regarded as the other powerhouse men’s lacrosse team of the Ancient Eight — defeated the Red last year at Schoellkopf in the first-ever Ivy League tournament title game in overtime, 10-9. This will be Cornell’s first opportunity to bounce back from that postseason loss, and improve its record in the second year of the tournament.

“No matter what the situation or the statistics to this point, it all goes out the window,” Pannell said of the Cornell-Princeton matchup. “It’s a huge rivalry — probably the biggest in the Ivy League, and one of the biggest in the country. Come game day it’s pretty much anybody’s game, and the winner is going to be the team that comes to play the game.”

The Red, a team that is used to playing the intense style of “Cornell Lacrosse,” welcomes the challenge with strong preparation. Pannell noted that the showing in every game that Cornell has played this season has been largely contingent on the practice of the week leading into it. This week has been no exception, and has prompted the players to gain a sense of optimism heading into the upcoming game.

“When everyone’s really excited they compete better, and they improve that way,” Pannell said. “They concentrate on becoming a better team in both the offensive and defensive ends, and come game day it’s that much easier because of the great practices. This week may have been the greatest practices so far this season.”

According to Pannell, another contributing factor to the team’s energy boost during actual games is the support of the fans, which will likely be in great supply this weekend, when the team finally returns home.

“It’s incredible — the following that Cornell has. There will be a ton of alumni because if you’ve played for Cornell you know how important this rivalry game is,” Pannell said. “There will be tremendous support; a sea of red in the crescent. It helps you that much, seeing that.”

Taking the field, the Red will look to its strong offense — coming in at first in the nation in scoring with an average of 13.33 goals per game — to match-up against a strong Princeton defense led by goalie Tyler Fiorito, who holds opponents to an average of 7.39 goals per game.

Cornell will need success not only the offensive end, but also at the middle of the field, at the face-off X and with ground balls. Senior Max Feely will lead the Cornell defense in his final regular season game as a member of the Red. If the team is able to close off the season with a 6-0 Ivy record, it would be the first time Cornell secured an undefeated conference seaosn since 2007.

Original Author: Reena Gilani