Amidst its longest winning streak in more than four years, Cornell men’s lacrosse has used the middle part of its season to knock off ranked opponents and build its resume for the NCAA Tournament in May.
At this moment however, the Red (9-3, 3-1 Ivy) has its eyes on one particular achievement that it’s been working towards since before the first whistle of the 2018 season. A win on Saturday against Brown means that Cornell will be guaranteed a place at the conference championship in New York City next month.
“This is an opportunity to secure a spot in the Ivy League tournament,” said interim head coach Peter Milliman.
The Bears (5-6, 2-2) will be the first team in four games that Cornell faces with a losing record, with the Red having dispatched three high quality teams in Lehigh, Syracuse and Harvard in its last three contests. But Cornell is making sure not to let down its edge for what will be a crucial game in determining its postseason fate.
“We work on intensity and focus every day in practice,” Milliman said. “That’s really the biggest way to make sure it translates to game day, is making it a priority every day with what we’re doing.”
Despite its lackluster record, the Ivy squad from Providence may be better than it appears. Brown has only lost one game by more than two goals this season, with two of its losses coming in overtime. What’s more, Brown is a team that’s better on the road than it is at home (4-2 vs. 1-4), and enterst the matchup having won three straight against the Red.
“The last time they came here, it didn’t go very well for us at all,” Milliman said. “I was on the sideline that day, and it didn’t feel very good. So we definitely need to step our game up when it comes to [Brown] because we haven’t performed very well against them in the last few years.”
Perhaps Cornell’s biggest strength all season has been its lethal offense, which averages a nation-best 14.83 goals per game. Sophomore attack Jeff Teat’s NCAA-leading 77 points have been a huge factor, particularly in the way he is able to see the field and find an open man for a score.
“I think a common theme of our team is unselfish and really patient,” Teat said. “We’re working really well together as a unit, we’re having a lot of assisted goals.”
One player in particular who has benefited greatly from Teat’s on-field vision is freshman midfielder Jonathan Donville, who was named Ivy League rookie of the week the past two weeks in a row.
“I think [Teat] is the best player in the country,” Donville said. “[He’s] the smartest lacrosse player I’ve ever played with. So I think all of our guys know, when Jeff gets the ball there’s an opportunity to make a play.”
This weekend’s game represents the final regular-season home game for the Red’s 11 seniors, who are currently enjoying the best season for the team since they first arrived on East Hill.
“It’s been a great run these past four years,” said senior midfielder Jordan Dowiak. “I’ve had a great time with everyone in my class. I think it’s just going to be a special day, you know, it’s always fun to play out on Schoellkopf and especially against an Ivy League opponent.”
While it may be the last regular season game for the Red at Schoellkopf this year, there is still a chance that Cornell could be a host of a first-round NCAA tournament game. Either way, this group of seniors knows that their time leading the squad to new heights is far from over.
“It’s great to get some wins this season,” Dowiak said. “It’s great to see us produce the way we know we can, but we got a lot more lacrosse left to play so I try to … keep it going and stay consistent in everything we do.”
The game against Brown begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at Schoellkopf Field.