This post has been updated.
Cornell men’s lacrosse is off to a hot start for the first time in a long time. Now 3-0 for the first time since 2014, the Red played its way to a slim victory against a visiting team which it has not beaten in its last four tries, defeating Albany, 17-16.
“I’m happy being 3-0,” said head coach Peter Milliman. “But we’ve got to get a lot better … Certainly it’s not a time to rest on doing stuff we haven’t done in a while.”
After a back-and-forth first half in which the margin stayed mostly within one goal, Cornell used a strong third quarter to pull away before fending off a late-game surge from the unranked Great Danes (1-2) to come away with a victory.
“We have an experienced group, and I think that goes a long way,” said sophomore attack John Piatelli. “We have so many talented guys, we just want to play unselfish and give everyone a chance to beat their guy because everyone can.”
Junior midfielder Connor Fletcher registered the game-winning goal with under 14 seconds left to play in the fourth quarter just one minute after Albany had tied the score.
“We were running a play to get [junior attack Jeff Teat] open wide,” Milliman said. “They sent two guys off to cover him and it opened up a space to get Connor over to the goal.”
Sophomore midfielder Jonathan Donville had a career high in points, while Teat came away with five points on the day. Junior Caelahn Bullen made seven saves.
“We’re just trying to find ways to get Jeff open, because he’s very dangerous when he has the ball,” Piatelli said. “It’s more openings for guys like me and Clarke and even the midfielders who are getting more opportunities. … When there’s so much attention on Jeff, there’s a lot of open space for us.”
Despite the win, there were glaring areas of deficiency for Cornell. Junior FOGO Paul Rasimowicz’s absence was palpable for the second straight game as the Red continued to struggle at the faceoff circle, with Albany winning 25 of 37 faceoffs. Cornell also committed six penalties, paving the way for the Great Danes to register three extra-man goals on the day.
Freshman FOGO Timmy Graham, an Australia native, took the lion’s share of draws for Cornell, winning just eight of 25. The newcomer has spent some time working on adjusting to the American system while helping to fill the void left by Rasimowicz’s absence.
“[Graham] has started to find some success,” Milliman said. “I think it’s taken him a little while to adjust … He’s never really played with these rules before.”
The Red continues to suffer from faceoff struggles, an ailment that plagued it for the better part of last season. Until any sort of stability returns to that aspect of the team’s game, it will have to make do with the personnel it has and continue to win games without relying on an advantage in possessions.
“It’s not nothing new to us, we’re just going to have to accept that it’s part of our thing,” Milliman said. “We’re going to have to scrap for every single faceoff.”
The Red faced lots of adversity en route to its three wins, but — as the old adage goes — a win is a win. And with a slew of ranked opponents still ahead on the schedule, gritty wins might prove valuable when the going gets tough.
“I think a character-building win is important,” Milliman said. “I’m hoping they’re not all character-building wins. I’d like to see some games where we play well from beginning to end and finish strong.”
Cornell returns to action next weekend with neutral-site games against No. 5 Penn State and No. 7 Towson in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the site of Cornell men’s lacrosse’s next two games as Charleston, South Carolina instead of Charlotte, North Carolina.