After a successful opening weekend, Cornell men’s lacrosse will look to continue its early success and find a third-straight win to start the 2019 season when it takes on Albany at home this weekend.
In recent history, the Great Danes (1-1) have held the advantage, winning the past four meetings against the Red (2-0) dating back to the 2015 NCAA tournament.
“When you lose to a team in previous years you always want to get back at them,” said sophomore attack John Piatelli. “We’re looking forward to another challenge ahead of us. They are a good team. They always give us a good fight.”
After defeating Cornell in a close battle last season, 11-9, the Great Danes went on to reach the NCAA semifinals last season.
“They’ve been very good,” said head coach Peter Milliman. “We’ve been doing our best to get better. They’ve gotten the upper hand a few times, and it certainly motivates the guys.”
Luckily for Cornell, Albany has lost several important players since the team’s successful 2018 campaign. Notably, the Great Danes lost face-off man TD Ierlan after he transferred to Yale over the offseason. As “the best face-off guy in the history of the game,” according to Milliman, Ierlan was undoubtedly a tough loss for Albany.
Albany’s strength in the face-off game showed last year, with 24 wins to Cornell’s zero. The Red will look to improve this time around and over the coming season.
“We are going to have to win the possession battle at some point,” Milliman said. “This year, we’re starting two games in a row we haven’t won the possession battle and it’s something that’s just going to be very difficult to overcome every game.”
As of now, it is unclear whether or not the Red’s top FOGO, junior Paul Rasimowicz, will be ready for Saturday’s game.
With Ierlan no longer a Great Dane, Cornell will have a better chance with the possession battle against Albany, although the Red will have to face the now-Yalie later in the year when it takes on the Bulldogs. But regardless of Albany’s unranked status or personnel changes, Milliman is not letting his guard down.
“They are going to be difficult for us to beat because they are a well-coached team, they are athletic, they play a different style that requires some preparation,” he said. “And if you’re not ready for it, your personnel is not the most important thing at that point.”
In addition to the possession battle, Cornell will also look to further sharpen its game by reducing the number of turnovers, having shaken off its rust during the opening weekend.
The team racked up turnover totals of 23 and 18 against Hobart and Lehigh last weekend, respectively. Cornell never had more than 17 turnovers in a game last season.
“At Hobart we had a lot of turnovers, and we cleaned that up a bit against Lehigh,” Piatelli said. “Even more so, we can do a better job of that, just cleaning up turnovers, making better decisions with the ball. I think that will come with time.”
Similar to last year, Cornell will look to dominate teams with its high-powered offense led by 2018 Tewaaraton Trophy Nominee junior attack Jeff Teat. But teams are constantly trying to minimize Teat’s impact in any way possible.
“[Teat is] pretty unique in what his abilities are,” Milliman said. “Everybody gets a different interpretation of what that would be and tries different things, and some of those work really well and some of those don’t work that well. But I don’t know if everyone knows what those things are going to be when they come in to play us.”
But since teams approach Teat in so many different ways, it can be difficult for Milliman and his staff to gameplan the offense.
“I think the biggest hurdle we encounter … is that we don’t know what teams are going to do until the game starts,” Milliman said. “That doesn’t make it a whole lot different than any other strategic element to the game, but this is a pretty significant component.”
After posting 14 combined points in the Red’s first two games, Teat will look to continue to power Cornell’s offense, regardless of what Albany and other opponents may throw at him.
The opening faceoff is at 3 p.m. Saturday at Schoellkopf Field.