With the Ivy League tournament fast approaching for Cornell men’s lacrosse, the team got some much needed practice in this week after a tough loss to Princeton in the regular-season finale. As a matchup with third-seeded Brown lies ahead, here are three keys for Cornell to hoist the hardware as Ivy League champions in New York this weekend.
Take Care of Brown
Obviously, Cornell needs to beat Brown to get to the conference title game. But after convincingly defeating the Bears by 14 goals less than two weeks ago, the pressure is on for Cornell to show up on Friday and prove that it is the only team worthy of taking on the mighty Yale Bulldogs.
Perhaps Brown’s biggest strength is its goaltender, Phil Goss, who was recently named a first-team All-Ivy selection. Cornell’s high-octane offense had no trouble blowing by Goss in the April 21 victory at Schoellkopf Field, but the team needs to be prepared to face a different defensive unit this weekend.
“We know we are not going to see the same Brown team again,” said interim head coach Peter Milliman. “The team that we played two weeks ago is not the best version of Brown that you’ll see.”
In all, the future of Cornell’s season depends on its ability to show up against a team that it is supposed to beat.
Get the Ball to Teat
Sophomore attack Jeff Teat is plainly one of the best players in the country. He’s an offensive weapon the likes of which few teams are blessed to have, and when the ball is in Teat’s stick, good things happen for Cornell. In last week’s loss to Princeton, Teat was held to zero points for the first time all season and just the second time in his career. For his efforts, top Tiger defenseman George Baughan earned national player of the week honors after holding Teat to a goose egg.
“Everybody is going to challenge us with how they play Jeff,” Milliman said. “They either shut him off, they faceguard him, they don’t slide from him … At the end of the day … we don’t really want to be playing without one of the best offensive players in the country so we get him involved however that works.”
In the last game against Brown, Teat tied a season-high with 10 points, and the last time that Cornell faced Yale, a narrow 13-11 loss at Schoellkopf, the sophomore standout had six points. The Cornell offense does its best work with Teat in charge. And if Cornell is going to repeat another close game with Yale, he’ll have to replicate some of his best performances from this season. Simply put, if Teat is taken out of either game this weekend, Cornell will likely lose — as it did to Princeton just a few days ago.
Win the Ground Ball Battle
Lacrosse is a possession-critical sport. The best way to score more goals than the other team is to have the ball more than the other team. The Bulldogs are one of the best teams in the country when it comes to possessions, finding themselves as one of only four teams in the top 10 in both faceoff percentage and ground balls per game. With Cornell’s faceoff specialist Paul Rasimowicz currently reported as doubtful to play, this is an area where the Red has vulnerability.
“We need to win the [faceoffs] we can and compete for the ones that we’re losing,” Milliman said. “It’s probably been the strength of our offensive run is how well we’ve been competing for loose balls and faceoffs and making it as much of a scrap as we can.”
For a team that started poorly on the faceoffs to start the season but made impressive adjustments as the campaign went on, missing its top player on the draw presents a challenge to which Cornell should be capable of adapting. Otherwise, a Yale team that is just as good as Cornell offensively is likely to take advantage of a lopsided possession distribution.