Playing against a high school buddy in the college level is an incredible experience. On the one hand, it can bring back earlier memories of playing together, but it can also lead to fierce competition and the development of an even deeper friendship over time.
Freshman attack Colton Rupp will experience something like that this weekend, when the men’s lacrosse team takes on the University of Virginia. Rupp says he has four friends on the Cavalier squad.
“It will be great to play against them and definitely get a win,” he said. “I haven’t talked to them yet, but we’ll probably shoot a text before the game, wish each other good luck. It’ll be fun to see each other again.”
When it comes to gameplay, No. 17 Virginia (3-3, 0-1 ACC) is much better than what its record might indicate, and the Red (1-2, 0-0 Ivy) will have to come out fighting in order to be successful.
“I think when you’re talking about a perennial powerhouse in Virginia, a loss to them is always going to hurt,” said senior defender Tony Britton. “They’re a good team this year … [and] we know they’re going to come into Ithaca guns ablazing … so I think it’s important we come out with the type of intensity that this program is accustomed to coming out with.”
Playing on Schoellkopf will definitely help bolster the Red’s confidence and pride.
“Every time we play a team like Virginia on our home field it’s an opportunity for all of those guys in the locker room to show what we’re made of,” Britton said.
A problem for Cornell all year has been capitalizing on opportunities. The Red took 45 shots in the game against Albany last weekend, 35 of which were within nine yards, but only came away with eight goals. The Red will have to step up on offense in order to be successful against the Cavaliers.
“It’s not good enough just to generate good looks and good shots,” said head coach Matt Kerwick. “You have to finish plays.”
“If we can’t get to 10, 11, 12 goals it’s going to be tough to win,” he continued.
Rupp was in accordance with the need for making the most of chances.
“We definitely did some good things against Albany, and we’ll definitely take what we did well there, but we’ve got to shoot better,” Rupp said. “We’re doing a lot of shooting drills at practice, and I’m confident some more goals will start to go in this weekend for us.”
With such a young team, Kerwick knows that consistency in finishing chances and offensive production will come with patience and time.
“We’re working on it,” he said. “It’s a process right now with a younger group and a new group, but it’s our focus.”
But it’s not just the younger guys who need to improve. Rupp, who has looked to the seniors as mentors, has been playing like a veteran college shooter himself, despite having only ever played in three collegiate lacrosse games.
Rupp credits some of his success to the mentorship he’s received from the team’s upperclassmen, including senior midfielder John Edmonds.
“They’re always there for me and always there to talk, just about lacrosse or about things off the field,” he said. “That definitely helps on the playing field when you have a good relationship off the field.”
However, with the way Rupp has been playing, Kerwick is starting to push the team’s players to use him as an example as well.
“He finishes the ball [which is] one thing that we’re lacking … and for him to do what he’s doing right now is great for our team,” Kerwick said. “We’ve got to have some other guys follow his lead and kind of watch the way he does things [because] he’s an excellent shooter.”
The Cavaliers defeated the Red 15-14 last season in Charlottesville, so the Red are looking to respond with a victory on home turf. The Cavaliers are 10-5 all time against the Red.
Despite this, Kerwick has a winning record of 2-1 against Virginia since he began coaching the Red in 2014. He and the team are confident that they can bring home the victory in front of the home crowd this Saturday.
“This game we just have to get our our shots, play aggressive defensively, and take some risks,” Britton said.