This post has been updated.
It wasn’t exactly pretty, but ugly or not, Cornell men’s lacrosse battled back on Sunday afternoon to win its home opener over Lehigh, 14-9, and improve to 2-0.
“Tough start, but not entirely surprising consider how good I think [Lehigh] is, how hard they typically play,” said head coach Peter Milliman. “But guys responded, the most important thing we did was settle down defensively … and really build a victory.”
The Mountain Hawks (1-3) opened up a 5-0 lead over Cornell (2-0) in the first quarter as the Red struggled to win faceoffs and control the ball in the offensive zone. As a result, Lehigh scorers fired shot after shot and a string of consecutive possessions in the early going of what looked like a blowout loss for Cornell.
But a couple of goals in the first quarter, followed by a few more in the second set Cornell up to be down only 6-5 at halftime after such a disastrous start.
“The vibes in the locker room were pretty positive [at halftime],” said junior attack Jeff Teat. “Even though we were down, we never really felt like we were losing. … We felt pretty in control.”
From there, Cornell outscored Lehigh 9-3 in the second half and 7-0 in the fourth quarter alone to surge back and blow by the visitors on a crisp February afternoon at Schoellkopf Field.
“We had to play a little bit tougher on ball, so we weren’t in a position to just give up easy shots like we did early on in the game,” Milliman said. “We needed to fight a little bit better for ground balls. … We were losing faceoffs and that was getting us maybe more mentally than anything else.”
Sophomore FOGO Paul Rasimowicz missed the game with an undisclosed injury, and Cornell was just 9-for-27 on faceoffs in his absence. Junior long-stick midfielder Brandon Salvatore took the plurality of Cornell faceoffs, winning four of 12, while sophomore FOGO Luca Tria won four of his 10 faceoffs. Milliman said Rasimowicz is day-to-day going forward.
Lehigh won the ground-ball battle, 31-24, while both teams were near-perfect on the clear, with Lehigh successful on 19 of 20 tries and Cornell successful on 22 of 23. Each squad scored a man-up goal.
Teat led the way offensively with four goals and two assists, while senior attack Clarke Petterson and sophomore attack John Piatelli each added five total points including four and three goals, respectively.
“We were staying composed, we weren’t settling for bad shots,” Teat said. “We were getting what we wanted, it wasn’t necessarily forced or anything, but we took our chances when we needed to.”
Junior goaltender Caelahn Bullen made 15 total saves in backstopping his team to victory. It was Bullen’s seventh consecutive victory.
“I was a little bit shaky in the beginning,” Bullen said. “But I felt relaxed, felt comfortable, saw the ball and each shot got better and better.”
“We got piled up on early, but I wouldn’t really put any of that on [Bullen],” Milliman said. “He’s been as consistent as anybody we’ve had on our team, and so I was just excited to see him get a good victory today because he earned it.”
Cornell will return to action next weekend when it welcomes Albany to Schoellkopf at 3 p.m. Saturday.