It has been a tale of two seasons for the Cornell men’s lacrosse team. Since the team’s lackluster 0-5 start, the group has bounced back as of late and has put together a 4-2 record since, with the only losses coming in a close one-goal decision against Penn and an away loss to the No. 1 team in the country in Syracuse.
Now, the Red (4-7, 2-2 Ivy) finds itself tied for third place in the Ivy League, sitting only one game behind Princeton for second place. The tie for third will be broken this weekend, as the team hits the road for the final time during the regular season when it heads to Providence to take on defending league-champion Brown (5-5, 2-2).
Last year, Brown came into Ithaca and thrashed Cornell 22-5 in the Red’s final home game of the season. Cornell will be looking to give Brown a taste of its own medicine heading into Brown’s final home game of this season.
“They are a very different team [from last year],” said head coach Matt Kerwick. “They had a special group of seniors last year, and we saw that first hand. We’re certainly going to use that as motivation, how they took it to us on our home field last year, and that’s something we’re going to try to bring to the game on Saturday.”
Cornell will see a familiar face in now-junior attacker Dylan Molloy, who gave not only the Red, but the entire college lacrosse world nightmares.
Molloy led the way for Brown last year, leading the then-highest scoring team in the nation with three goals and three assists against Cornell on his way to posting the fourth-most single season points in history. Molloy then went on to be the the first player in Brown history to win the Tewaaraton Award last year for best college lacrosse player, and was named the 2016 USILA Outstanding Player and Outstanding Attackman.
“It was more than just Molloy attacking [last year],” Kerwick said. “He’s an outstanding player, one of the best in country by far at his position, but they’re a very young team around him now so it’s a very different group.”
Not only is this a new, younger team for Brown, but this will also be the first time that Cornell will take on the team under its new head coach, Mike Daly.
After longtime coach Lars Tiffany headed to UVA to take the head coaching job there, Daly was brought in from Tufts. In his 18 years with his alma mater, Daly took his Tufts teams to nine NCAA Division III Tournament appearances — three of which resulted in Championships. He also posted a 244-83 record and won seven straight NESCAC titles. Tufts finished last season as the highest scoring team in the country for Division III, averaging 17.48 goals a game.
That offensive firepower carried over to Daly’s new position, as Brown is still a force to be reckoned with offensively, averaging 14.2 goals per game. The team’s defense, meanwhile, is not something to hang your hat on and has some gaping holes, giving up 14.13 goals per game.
The team has seen in a dip in offensive performance during league play, however, only scoring 11.75 goals a game, while playing only slightly better on defense than usual, but still giving up a hefty 13.75 goals a game. These numbers are similar to Cornell’s overall trends, which averages 10.8 goals per game and gives up 13.4.
But recent performances show a noticeable change in the Red’s trajectory. During the five-game slide to open the season, Cornell gave up an average of 17.8 goals per game and averaged only 10 goals, despite an 18-goal performance during an overtime effort against Virginia. In the six games since then, the Red has averaged 12.3 goals while giving up just 9.3 per game.
For Kerwick, it is a thing of beauty to see where this team is going.
“We have a very young group in that locker room right now, and they just keep getting better, and they’re believing in each other,” he said. “They’re working really hard at it, and that’s all we can do.”
Kerwick admitted that the season has not gone the way anyone would have liked it to, but that his young, tenacious team has to keep on pushing.
“Obviously we’re not where we want to be right now, but you can’t look in the rearview, you’ve got to keep moving forward, and it’s about the next play, the next game, the next practice, and they’ve done a really good job,” he added.
The team will have to overcome its subpar road record this weekend. Cornell is just 1-4 away from home while it is 3-2 at Schoellkopf. Brown also does well at home with a 4-2 record, despite struggling on the road. Regardless of the situation facing the team, the message remains constant — looking forward and playing as a team.
“It’s about 3-2 right now, we want to get the next one, that’s all we care about,” Kerwick said. “Having a great, productive week of practice, going down to Providence and playing our best game of the season, and we’ll see after that with Princeton coming here.”
With the regular season coming to a quick close, the team hopes that Saturday’s game will bring some momentum for a late post-season push.
“[If] we end up 4-2, we’re in good position and continue to play into May,” Kerwick said. “That’s always a goal for us, to play well and win that Ivy League tournament and then continue to play after that, we want to keep this group together as long as we can.”
The Red’s road finale will get under way at 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon.