This year’s clash against Princeton feels a little different than most years for the Cornell men’s lacrosse team.
Unlike most years, neither team is in contention for either the Ivy League or NCAA tournaments. This means that the game carries no weight in postseason play. Nevertheless — given it is one of the best rivalries in collegiate lacrosse — there is a lot of pride that comes with the game.
“Princeton week has always been an important one around here,” said head coach Matt Kerwick. “This year it’s a little different, so it’s been important for us as a staff to keep pushing the guys, and the seniors have led the way this week.”
With little riding on this game besides pride, Kerwick has relied on the seniors to keep the younger players motivated throughout the week.
“They’ve done a great job in practice,” Kerwick said. “They’re very motivated to finish this one right and finish the season out on a positive note after a tough one against Brown.”
The 22-5 loss to No. 2 Brown (13-1, 6-0 Ivy) last Saturday ended the Red’s (6-6, 1-4 Ivy) postseason hopes. Kerwick was disappointed with the the team’s effort against the Bears.
“Last week was surprising,” he said. “I expected a better outcome in that came.”
Nevertheless, he knows the Bears played excellently and that the Red can’t base its evaluation of the season on this one game.
“Overall, we’ve been really proud of how this team has developed and worked throughout the year,” Kerwick said.
Senior goalkeeper Brennan Donville — who finished with a career-best 16 saves in the Brown game — agreed with his coach, pointing to the marked improvement of the team’s large freshman class in particular.
“We’ve relied on our freshmen more than most years in the past,” he said. “They’ve done an excellent job.”
It is important the Red maintain this upward trajectory going into the Princeton game and into next season.
“We’re very excited to see growth this summer of some of the guys on this team, and I think the table is set for a very bright future,” Kerwick said. “Obviously we want to get this last game and send these seniors out on the best note that we can.”
Donville mentioned that the success of this year’s freshmen is a very good sign for future seasons.
“We … have [freshmen] all over the field making plays for us,” he said. “I think overall they’ve really improved a lot, and I think the future looks bright for them.”
Despite the Tigers’ (4-8, 1-4 Ivy) subpar record, Kerwick and Donville know this game won’t be easy. The crowd always plays a role in an away game against a rival, and it is also the Tigers’ senior night.
“They’re certainly a lot better than their record suggests, so by no means is this game going to be an easy one for us,” Donville said. “We’re going to have to play very well in order to get the win.”
Play begins at 12 p.m. this Saturday in Princeton, N.J.