Will the real Cornell lacrosse please stand up? Was it the sloppy, inexperienced team that gave up five unanswered goals in the third quarter against Penn State? Or the resilient and efficient squad that fought back late in the game?
The answer is still up in the air. But one thing is for certain, No. 15 Cornell will begin its season with a loss for just the second time in the past 12 years.
A comeback late in the fourth quarter wasn’t enough to make up for the error-prone third quarter as the Red lost to No. 19 Penn State, 8-7.
After taking a lead into the half, Cornell (0-1) started the third quarter lazily, missing ground balls and turning over the ball carelessly. Penn State (3-0) took advantage, scoring five goals in the quarter, giving the Nittany Lions a 7-3 lead.
“I thought we got a little stagnant and had some poor turnovers,” said head coach Matt Kerwick. “They capitalized in transition which we knew they were very capable of. They’re a great transition team.”
The Red was listless for the entirety of the third quarter, failing to generate much offense and struggling to contain Penn State’s offensive attack. Cornell took just three shots in the third quarter, none of them posing much of a challenge to Nittany Lions’ goalie Will Scheiner.
On the other hand, Penn State fired 10 shots at senior goalie Brennan Donville. The captain failed to notch a save in the third period. Despite his third period struggles, Kerwick praised Donville’s performance, calling him “great in the cage.”
Kerwick pointed to the relative inexperience of the squad as a big reason for the multitude of errors in the third quarter.
“We made a lot of young mistakes today,” Kerwick said. “I thought there were three or four little mistakes that are magnified in a one-goal loss. A lot of them were by freshmen and [Penn State] is a big opponent to play your first career game.”
Cornell pumped in four goals in the fourth quarter, eventually tying up the score at seven.
“The fight in the fourth quarter I think really showed who we’re going to be moving forward,” Kerwick said. He also noted that team’s resilient character shined through in that final period.
Facing a four-goal deficit, the Red’s offense went to work.
First it was senior attackman John Edmonds coming around from behind the net to quickly push the ball past Penn State’s goalie, scoring his second goal of the game. Then it was senior midfielder Ryan Mathews who sniped the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal. Edmonds then completed the hat trick, again coming around from behind the goal to score. Finally, freshman Colton Rupp knotted up the score at seven with his first career goal.
“We pushed the guys to [be confident] in the fourth quarter and [Edmonds] led the way and really set the tone offensively for us,” Kerwick said. “We had some chances and unfortunately you can’t dig a hole like we did in the third quarter and expect to come out on top against a very good opponent like Penn State.”
Mistakes similar to those made in the third quarter again resurfaced late in the game. Following Cornell’s flurry of goals, junior faceoff specialist Dom Massimilian won the faceoff but was whistled for a violation, giving the Nittany Lions the ball. Penn State would eventually score on the ensuing possession.
Cornell had one last shot at tying the game late in the fourth quarter, but a crease violation gave the ball back to Penn State, all but eliminating the Red’s shot at completing the comeback.
The Red began the game strong, showing poise and control in the first 15 minutes.
To begin the game, Massimilian won the opening faceoff and sprinted down the field and, when Penn State failed to stop him, found the back of the net to give Cornell its first goal of the season. The goal was the second-quickest in program history, behind the record that Massimilian set last year against Harvard.
The first quarter ended with a tied score at 2, but it was all Cornell, who gets a week of practice before the team travels to Florida for a battle against Hobart, for the majority of the period. The Red held a 16-4 advantage on shots in the period, maintaining possession for the majority of the quarter.
“I think overall from the start we had nice long possessions, which is a big positive,” Edmonds said. “But the biggest thing is finishing opportunities which we didn’t. We had two- and three-minute possessions in the fourth quarter, we were getting looks we just weren’t burying them.”
“We knew it was going to be a 60-minute game, unfortunately we played 45 or 50 minutes today,” Kerwick said.