On a rare sunny afternoon that provided perfect playing conditions, the No. 3 Cornell men’s lacrosse team faced one of its biggest challenges of 2011 to close out its regular season. The Red (11-2, 6-0 Ivy League) rallied back from a five-goal deficit against Princeton (4-8, 2-4) in front of a large crowd at Schoellkopf Field to win, 9-7.Princeton entered the game knowing the outcome would be a determining factor for the Tigers’ potential participation in the Ivy League Tournament. Couple that with the age-old rivalry between the visitors and Cornell, and the result was powerful opening play by Princeton, who led, 6-1, shortly into the second quarter.“We all knew that Princeton was going to come in here and give us their best effort of the year with their chances at the Ivy League tournament and a post-season tournament on the line, and they did just that,” said Cornell head coach Ben DeLuca ’98.Just before Princeton’s sixth goal, DeLuca switched out usual starter in the cage, sophomore A.J. Fiore, for freshman Andrew West. The change seemed to parallel a change in Cornell’s performance. The Red cut Princeton’s five-goal lead to just two as the teams left for halftime with the Tigers holding a 6-4 advantage.The Red came out of the locker rooms still hot and scored four consecutive goals, totaling seven straight points before a rebuttal from Princeton.The best scoring offense in the nation, Cornell was limited throughout the game because of a remarkable performance by Princeton’s netminder Tyler Fiorito, who made a career high 20 saves on the afternoon. Nonetheless, several Cornell attackmen found the back of the net during the seven-goal stretch, including sophomore Steve Mock, senior David Lau, junior co-captain Rob Pannell and senior co-captain Jack Dudley, who scored the first goal of the game for the Red.Cody Bremner, a freshman attackman, also scored a man-up goal. Junior midfielder Roy Lang tallied a goal and an assist.West played stingy in aqnet and made good competition for Fiorito, especially during the second half, when he made five on-target saves and allowed just one goal.“It’s not really too much that I have to do,” West said. “It’s Max Feely leading us, [sophomore Mike] Bronzino making plays and Jason Noble making plays. I kind of just need to be in the right spot at the right times.”The defense’s ability to play as a cohesive group was one of the noticeable differences when the game shifted in the Red’s favor.“We weren’t playing together in the first half. Mainly in the first quarter, we weren’t playing together as a unit. We were kind of on islands, and that’s where we hit the problems that we had. It’s a credit to Princeton, they came out and played fired up … the second quarter we kind of halted their momentum and kind of got it back. We started playing as a team again and that really helped us in terms of swinging the momentum back in our favor,” Bronzino said.Cornell led in the ground balls category, 39-31, but trailed at the face-off X, winning just seven of the 20 on the afternoon. Princeton also caused more turnovers.Unfortunately for Princeton, which would have needed help from around the league even if it had defeated Cornell, the loss was the last game of the season for the Tigers. Harvard took down Yale and secured itself the fourth seed in the Ivy League Tournament, eliminating Princeton from contention.With the win, Cornell finished undefeated in the Ivy League and at home. Completing these two goals set at the start of the season is a huge accomplishment for all of the players, most notably for the seniors.“After our loss to Virginia, our focus was squarely on the Ivy League,” Dudley said. “We haven’t taken any Ivy League game for granted. The senior class hadn’t had a season where we were undefeated. The last time that happened was 2007, and that was one of our higher goals.”Dudley credited the team’s success to the leadership of the seniors and the juniors, and the squad’s ability to take every game seriously regardless of the opponent’s standing and statistics. Cornell will treat the semifinals of the Ivy League tournament this Friday against Yale similarly, hoping to stay undefeated at home and against Ivy clubs through postseason play.
Original Author: Reena Gilani