That’s all, folks.
For one final time this season, the Cornell men’s lacrosse team suited up and went into battle. And even though the Red was guaranteed to finish with a losing record and miss out on postseason play for the second season in a row, the team put in its all onto the field when it hosted archrival No. 13 Princeton. All week long the team talked about sending the seniors out the right way, and Cornell did exactly that with an 18-17 win.
“Obviously we wish we were still playing, but there’s no better feeling than getting that win, especially against Princeton,” said senior Walt Gahagan. “It’s one of the best rivalries in college lacrosse, if not the best, so it feels really good.”
The history between the two winningest programs in Ivy League history, Cornell (5-8, 3-3 Ivy) and Princeton (9-5, 4-2), is a storied one, and Saturday’s matchup continued the trend. The matchup brought together the two highest-performing freshmen in the country in Cornell’s freshman attacker Jeff Teat and Princeton’s Michael Sowers, and while the matchup lived up to the hype, it was Teat who would steal the show.
The first quarter started off with Cornell and Princeton trading goals. The Red opened a 3-2 lead with just over five minutes into the game, with Sowers scoring both Tiger goals.
But Princeton senior Gavin McBride, who entered the game with a national-best 3.54 goals per game, soon showed why he was the best goal-getter in the country.
The next three goals would all come from McBride, giving Princeton a two-goal lead. But Cornell would respond by scoring twice more, tying the game 5-5 after the first period.
The back-and-forth affair would continue for both teams, with the score knotted up 8-8 at the 6:14 mark of the second after a goal by sophomore Ryan Bray. Neither team led by more than two goals until Cornell went on a series of runs to blow the lead open.
Bray’s goal sparked Cornell’s four-straight goal run to capture a three-goal lead. Princeton tacked on one more goal, but the Red still had an 11-9 lead heading into halftime.
The Red continued its momentum by opening the second half with a goal by junior Jordan Dowiak, assisted by Teat. The assist gave Teat 68 points for the season, breaking the program’s record for points in a season by a freshman.
“[It was exciting] to see Jeff beat the scoring record today,” said head coach Matt Kerwick. “I thought it was going to be hard for him to get to that number, and he did it in the first half.”
The Red would then go on for three more goals, capping off a four-goal run to open the second half, and a 8-1 run extending back to the second period to give Cornell a 15-9 lead.
But Princeton would not go down quietly, and the Tigers came roaring back with a run of its own. Princeton closed out the third period with four-straight goals, and opened the fourth with another goal to bring the team back within one goal. After a couple of traded goals, Princeton would bring the game level, 16-16, with 4:51 left to go in the game. It was the first tie of the game in over 34 minutes.
Cornell and Princeton would once again trade goals throughout the last few minutes of the game. Freshman Jake McCullough’s goal at the 2:24 mark would give Cornell an 18-17 lead, and match the Red’s season high for goals scored.
With 0:34 left to play, the Tigers had possession of the ball and an opportunity to once again tie the game. But this time, the Cornell defense — which struggled early on in the season but has improved as the season progressed — made a stand. With 2.3 seconds left on the clock, Princeton’s Austin Sims took a shot from 15-yards out, but senior goalie Christian Knight made the save. With the save, Knight secured the Red’s lone win over a ranked opponent this season.
“We’re extremely excited for the seniors … to leave beating our rival,” Kerwick said. “We let it get away from us a little bit, [but] we always seem to make it exciting with this young group.”
Teat finished with 12 points in the game, tying him for third most in a game in program history and and the most in 40 years since Tim Goldstein ’88 scored 12 against Hobart in 1987. Goldstein was in attendance to watch Teat tie his mark.
Teat also finished the season with 72 points, bypassing Rob Pannell’s ’12 mark of 67, for most in a season by a Cornell rookie.
McCullough finished the game with a career-high six goals, including his game winner.
“It’s kind of tough not to make it to the Ivy League tournament, but overall this game has been a statement for our offense,” Teat said. “It’s always been there, we’ve felt, but today showed that our offense is something we should be proud of and is something we can look forward to next year.”
While the moment was bittersweet for the team, Kerwick knows it is already time to look forward to next season.
“As a coach, you always want to get better throughout the course of the year, and this team without question did that,” he said. “With so many guys in that locker room returning next year, we have to learn from our missteps this year, and hopefully this is going to carry us to be a team that can contend for a national title next year, and I completely believe that this team can do that with a lot of hard work.”