With two Ivy League games left in the season and an Ivy League title still at play, it is crunch time for the men’s lacrosse team. The Red have had ample time to develop over a long season and will need to put what they have learned to the test.
Cornell (6-5, 1-3 Ivy) welcomes No. 3 Brown (11-1, 4-0) tomorrow on Schoellkopf field. Riding a two-game winning streak, this game will be key for maintaining positive momentum continuing through the end of the season.
“It is going to be the biggest game of the year so far because there is so much riding on it,” said freshman midfielder Clarke Petterson.
Petterson’s excellent play last week — which included his first career hat trick in the overtime win against Syracuse and two timely goals to set up freshman attack Colton Rupp’s buzzer-beater in the Lehigh game — was good enough to earn him Ivy League Rookie of the Week.
He hopes to keep this level of play up in the Brown game.
“A win over an Ivy opponent right now is a necessity,” he said. “If we want a shot at making the Ivy League Tournament or the NCAA tournament then this is a must win game.”
Heach coach Matt Kerwick knows Brown has one of the best teams in the country and will be a tall task for his team.
“They play a different style than almost anyone in the country right now,” he said. “They’re very aggressive when they come over the midfield line attacking the goal and don’t care about turning the ball over. They’re just a team that likes to go and keep going.”
The Bears lead the country with 16.58 goals per game and are third in the country with a shot percentage of .371, so it will be essential that the Red get ahead early and then have an excellent defensive game.
“We know Brown is a very dangerous team, especially in transition, so we are really focusing on limiting transition opportunities and trying to play good transition defense,” Petterson said.
In terms of preparing, Petterson noted that the team has been working a lot on its transition play.
“In practice we are focusing a lot on our transition play both offense and defence as well as face offs because we know that that those two areas are going to be key come Saturday,” he said.
Kerwick has devoted the first half of the week to what he calls “Cornell lacrosse.” Specifically, that is getting back to the Cornell standard without looking much at Brown’s tendencies.
“It’s been about just performing at our highest level this week and focusing on that,” he said. “We’ll look a little bit at their personnel and the way they do things today.”
Tomorrow’s game is also senior day, as it is the Red’s last home game of the season. The exemplary senior class will certainly receive some well-deserved praise, but the real celebration will come after the final buzzer sounds.
“These young men have done so much for our program and everyone within the locker room knows that,” Kerwick said. “We will definitely recognize them before the game, [but] most of it comes after the game when we get together as a team in the locker room … with the families for a bite to eat up in the Hall of Fame room.”
It will be nice to step back to take a break and put these players’ careers in perspective at such an intense part of the season, but Kerwick and the Red know that this will only be one side note to a very pivotal game.
Kerwick is confident that the team will put up an excellent fight against Brown, despite the gap on the leaderboard.
“We’re playing our best lacrosse right now which is what you always want to do as a team, [playing] your best down the stretch,” he said. “[Everyone’s] hard work [is] starting to pay off, so it should be a great lacrosse game to watch.”
Play begins at 1 p.m. on Schoellkopf.