Fresh off a top-20 upset, Cornell lacrosse is ready to set itself apart this season as it begins its Ivy League schedule. Up first, No. 8 Yale — the three-time defending Ivy League champions — will come to town this Saturday for a conference showdown at Schoellkopf Field.
After finishing in the middle of the pack last season, the Red (3-2) will attempt to reestablish itself in the conference when it challenges the Bulldogs (4-1) this weekend at home.
“Our goal is not to show well in the Ivy League or maybe sneak into the Ivy League playoff,” Milliman said. “Our goal is to win the Ivy League.”
Cornell did not fare well against the Bulldogs last year, dropping the league-opener, 17-8. The Red would go on to finish fifth in the conference, an improvement over the year before, but not where it wants to be.
The Bulldogs this season will be formidable opponents again — ranking as a top-10 team in the nation with a record of 4-1 to start the year. In addition, Yale has found itself at the top of the standings for three straight regular seasons.
“[Yale is] good at pretty much everything,” said interim head coach Peter Milliman. “I think our sharpness is going to need to come through at the beginning of the game. We can’t have a slow start.”
The Red is coming off a 9-7 win over then-No. 20 Penn State at U.S. Lacrosse’s Tierney Field in Maryland. The underdogs used a six-goal run in the fourth quarter to beat the Nittany Lions.
While Yale will arguably be the toughest Ivy foe in 2018, this Cornell team is ready to win, and seems to be finding its groove as of late.
“The Penn State game was huge for us,” said senior goaltender Christian Knight. “The momentum definitely carries over.”
On offense, sophomore attack Jeff Teat continues to lead the way, totaling 28 points so far this season. Specifically in the goals department, junior attack Clarke Petterson has greatly contributed with 14 goals of his own. But when it comes down to it all, it’s a group effort, according to Milliman.
“I think the offensive success in a lot of ways is built off of chemistry,” he said. “Guys understand what we are doing, [work] well together reading each other and [have] a good sense of what we’re trying to accomplish. System wise, we keep things pretty simple and let them play and that’s why I think chemistry is a big piece.”
Compared to the rest of the nation, the Red ranks 13th in goals per game, averaging 12.4 goals per game while Yale comes in at 27th with 11.2. Additionally, in terms of team defense, the squads are both eighth in goals allowed per game, exactly at 8.40, with Cornell anchored by Knight in goal.
“I feel great, lighter, healthy, everything just seems to be coming together,” the fifth-year goalie said. “A lot of my personal success comes down to the defense. We’ve been playing unbelievably on that side of the ball… It’s just the whole team playing well.”
When it comes to these two main categories, it may seem that the Red has the edge statistically. However, the team still has struggles which lie elsewhere.
With a dismal faceoff win percentage of .328, Cornell lags behind, failing to rank in the top 50. On the other hand, Yale is in the top-20 in faceoffs.
“We are going to continue to strategize with faceoffs,” Milliman said. “I think that was a big part of last weekend, we threw a handful of different things at [Penn State]. I think that paid dividends … we won [faceoff battle in] the fourth quarter.”
The Bulldogs, like the Red, have been finding ways to win as of late. It will thus be a tall order to slow down this Ivy League stalwart come Saturday.
“We have to have our ducks in a row; we got to play well, be sharp and execute,” Milliman said.And if they do just that, this team will be one step closer to its ultimate goal.
Cornell and Yale will square off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Schoellkopf Field.