The only warmth on Schoellkopf Field Tuesday afternoon radiated from the men’s lacrosse team. The air might have been cold, but the Red was on fire, as Cornell (3-0) sped past the Canisius Golden Griffins (0-1) in a 19-4 landslide victory.
“I’m proud of the way the team came out,” said head coach Ben DeLuca ’98. “Coming off of the success of the Army game [on March 3], I think that with a quick turn around our seniors and coaching staff did a good job of preparing for a little bit of an unknown, [with] Canisius not playing a game at this point in time. We really had to dig into our files and review the game from last year.”
Cornell hit the field running, scoring the first four goals of the game in just under 3:46. Freshman attacker Matt Donovan started the game on a strong footing, netting an unassisted goal at just 1:11 into the first period. This was the first of two goals for this week’s Ivy League Rookie of the Week, who also recorded one assist in the game. Cornell finished the first frame leading the Golden Griffins, 5-1.
“I think the execution that we saw today was pretty nice, especially considering the quick turnaround from Army,” DeLuca said. “The face-off unit led by [assistant coach Paul] Richards has done a wonderful job of getting us possession and allowing our offense to operate and gain some confidence and comfort levels earlier in the game.”
The defense ran a tight game, holding Canisius to only four points. Much of the credit for shutting out the Golden Griffins goes to the defensive line, according to DeLuca, who said that creating stronger lines of communication was key to the win.
“I think defensively we did a much better job of eliminating the miscommunications and some of the missteps we’ve had in the past,” he said. “I think that’s a great step in the right direction.”
Junior attacker Connor English scored a game-high, as well as career-high, five points for the Red on two unassisted goals and three assists. Twelve Cornell players were credited with at least one goal for the day, with five players notching assists. The season-high 19 goals seemed the result of the collaborative effort from both ends of the field.
“We talk a lot about balance and sharing the ball offensively, playing with a very unselfish attitude and I think our guys did that,” DeLuca said. “We saw some great penetration from our attack and some athletic dodges from our midfield, and they shared the ball well — generating some good shot opportunities and capitalizing on the majority of those opportunities.”
By the end of the contest, Cornell outshot Canisius 50-to-16, averaging nearly one shot a minute — a clear testament to the team’s mission to move the ball around on the field until a scoring opportunity opened up. According to senior midfielder J.J. Gilbane, any of the players on the field are capable of creating and taking scoring opportunites.
“I think … we have the most depth of any Cornell team I have been a part of,” Gilbane said. “We have some super stars obviously, but we look to our midfield line of attack and we’ve got guys who can all score. Every guy who is out there offensively … can do some damage. We think we have a lot of power offensively and we can call any guy’s number at any point that we think he would have a good opportunity to get a goal.”
With an 11-1 lead heading into the third period, Cornell was able to give playing time to most of its roster in the remaining 30 minutes of play, which was evidenced by Gilbane’s statement that every player on the team is capable of capitalizing on the different scoring opportunities. According to DeLuca, trusting the other players on the field and playing quick-paced game of lacrosse to which Cornell fans are accustomed will be what makes all the difference in a game.
“I think it boils down to a … selfless mentality of trusting your teammates to do their job and doing your job on your own,” he said. “Sharing the ball and finding the best shot available, not necessarily the first, but we’ve also committed to playing at a pretty fast pace from defense to offense, from the face-off ‘x’ to the offensive end. I think that some of those risks are paying off for us. There is a reward at the end of playing at a fast pace.”
Another area of focus that has helped the Red to improve over the last three games is in the area of defense. The Red’s defensive unit was the clear MVP in the contest against Canisius. The players were tightening up ball movement on the Red’s defensive end and limiting the amount of time the Golden Griffins had near the net.
“I think we are working hard to tighten up [the defensive end,]” DeLuca said. “I’m pleased with some of the improvements we’ve made there. I think it really boils down to some … improvements in communication and some leadership from guys like [junior defenders] Jason Noble and Mike Bronzino in the defensive end. I think [sophomore goalie] Andrew West has provided a little bit of stability there as well. I think that [junior goalkeeper] A.J. Fiore played well this time too.”
West and Fiore combined for five saves against Canisius, while the Red held the opposing goalkeepers to 18. Cornell also forced 21 Golden Griffins turnovers and picked up 39 ground balls, compared to Canisius’ 20. The Red’s face-off unit also put up big numbers for the day, winning 20-of-26 at the face-off ‘x.’ Leading the Red’s face-off unit is senior midfielder Mitch McMichael and sophomore midfielder Doug Tesoriero. According to McMichael, the pair pushes each other in practice to become sharper and better prepared for the next game.
“What we have to work for now is Doug and I to get back to each other tomorrow in practice and get that face-off against each other head-to-head and make each other better,” McMichael said. “It’s been a year and a bit now that Doug and I have faced against each other and I think it is paying dividends, [with] me pushing him and him pushing me to be better faceoff guys.”
The Red returns to action on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., traveling to Baltimore, Md. to face the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, the Virginia Cavaliers.
Original Author: Lauren Ritter