It is too little, too late for the Cornell men’s lacrosse team. Heading into last weekend, the team was tied for third place in the Ivy League, but after dropping am 13-10 game to Brown, the Red is now outside looking in and mathematically eliminated from the Ivy League tournament. But this year’s group will have one final hoorah when it welcomes No. 13 Princeton for the season finale at Schoellkopf.
The game against Princeton — the team that pushed Cornell to its first losing record in 18 years last season — will bring with it a chunk of Ivy League history. Princeton (9-4, 4-1) and Cornell (4-8, 2-3) are the two winningest programs in league history. This meeting will be the 81st all-time between the two programs, in which the Tigers hold a 41-37-2 edge over the Red — the only winning record over Cornell by an Ivy.
“Princeton’s our biggest rival in the Ivy League, I think even our biggest rival in the country, so we want to beat them,” said senior Marshall Peters. “We want to bring the intensity, bring the enthusiasm this week in practice, and keep morale up. It’s very easy to let the season slip away, and guys give up, but we’re doing a good job of motivating guys.”
Princeton will be the fourth different ranked team that Cornell will face this year, but the team has been unable to beat a ranked opponent so far, so a win over Princeton would be a good win to close out the season.
However, defeating Princeton will be a tall task. The team sits in second place in the Ivy League, has clinched a spot in the Ivy League Tournament and touts one of the best offenses in the country.
The Tigers rank No. 3 in the nation in goals per game, averaging just under 14.5, and are No. 1 in assists per game with just over 9.5. Princeton is also home to senior Gavin McBride, who has the most goals per game in the country with 3.54 per game.
In addition, Princeton has three players with 50 points for the season, including freshman standout Michael Sowers, who has 70. Sowers’ mark broke Cornellian Rob Pannell’s ’13 Ivy League record for points by a rookie.
The Tigers also have some standouts on the defensive side of the ball, such as junior goalie Tyler Blasidell, who ranks fifth in the nation in saves per game.
One area that Princeton does struggle in, however, is in faceoffs, winning only 47.8 percent of the chances. While Cornell also struggles more in this category — winning only 36.7 percent — head coach Matt Kerwick knows that Cornell will have to exploit Princeton’s weaknesses to get the win.
“We have to do a better job at the faceoff [circle]. It’s been a struggle for us all year, and we’ve got to battle and scrap for those,” Kerwick said. “We have to keep as many possessions our way as we can. They’re very efficient as a shooting team, one of the better shooting teams in the country, so we’re going to have to limit those opportunities.”
Saturday’s game will feature two of the best-performing freshmen in the country in Sowers and Cornell’s Jeff Teat. Both Sowers and Teat were placed on Inside Lacrosse’s 2017 Midseason DI Freshman Rankings at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively.
In addition, Sowers and Teat rank third and eighth in the country in points per game, and fourth and fifth for assists in the country, respectively. Amongst freshmen, Sowers ranks No. 1 and Teat ranks No. 2 in the country in both categories.
Though the freshmen are poised to be the standouts, and while Cornell has nothing tangible to gain from this game, the team is looking to send the eight seniors out the right way after a tough season. But Kerwick made sure to stress not letting the emotions get in the way of Saturday’s performance.
“We recognize those guys Monday at practice, we had them stand in front of the team and we made a vow to each other that we’re going to play our best for those seniors because they’ve done a lot for this program,” Kerwick said. “[But] I just want us to play our best, the Senior Day stuff is something we recognize after the game.”
For the seniors, it has been an emotional week leading up to the game.
“I was sad after the Brown game. It’s tough, a bit surreal, [that] Saturday’s our last game,” Peters said. “But I’ve been telling myself that I can’t be sad for the last game, I have to appreciate the great times, the great memories I’ve had at Schoellkopf, and be happy about that.”
One special circumstance in the senior class is in the case of goalie Christian Knight, who missed all of last season due to injury. As a result, Knight has another year of eligibility, and told The Sun that he is “working on getting [his] fifth year to play here next year.”
Nevertheless, Knight wants to make his last game with his class a special one.
“It is the last time that I get to play with the guys in my class, the guys that I’ve spent the last four years with,” he said. “[Senior day] is a really special day, and just because I have another year doesn’t mean much. I still want to make it a special day for all the seniors that won’t be able to play again.”
Action will get underway at 3 p.m., shortly after the women’s lacrosse Senior Day against Harvard.