Cornell men’s lacrosse took down the nation’s top team Sunday afternoon, defeating No. 1 Towson 18-11 after coming up empty Friday night against No. 4 Penn State at the Crown Lacrosse Classic down south in Charlotte, N.C.
The win gives the Red its fourth victory of the season and its first against a ranked opponent in 2019.
Towson jumped out to an early 5-2 lead in the first quarter and it looked as if things might go downhill quickly — just as they did in the team’s 19-13 loss to No. 4 Penn State two days prior. With the best faceoff in the country, the Tigers seemed poised to run away with the game.
Instead, the Red proceeded to make an impressive case, scoring nine unanswered goals, five of which were scored by senior attack Clarke Petterson, who scored a career-high eight goals in the contest. At halftime, Cornell led Towson, 12-6, and momentum was on the side of head coach Peter Milliman’s squad.
“The energy is good, the attitude is great, the guys are working hard and are committed to the game plan,” Milliman told Lacrosse Talk Radio at halftime. “We started off with a lead for [Towson], but by our standards [there] hasn’t been that big of lead, so we are just happy we got a chance to turn it around.”
This opportunity to turn it around would not have occurred if not for Cornell’s high-quality defensive play. The Red was outmatched on faceoffs all day, only winning six of 32. But the defense still managed to keep the Tigers in check.
“Our defense hasn’t been the strongest it can play at, and I think today was a good example of that,” said freshman goalie Chayse Ierlan, who started and won his first collegiate game on Sunday.
The defense managed to force 23 turnovers, resulting in a plus-nine turnover differential, which gave Petterson and the rest of the offense plenty of opportunities to score and extend the lead.
“When we get into our offense, we know we’ve got some good players up there and got a good system going, so it gave us confidence every time we got a stop, thinking we’ve got a good chance to put the ball in the net,” Ierlan added.
Ierlan, who started in place of junior Caelahn Bullen in the cage, made 10 saves but — more importantly — also made saves in clutch situations to ensure Cornell kept its distance from Towson once his team got ahead.
The Red struggled to stay out of the penalty box, going down a man on 11 different occasions. But again, the defense stepped up, holding Towson to 3 for 11 on extra-man opportunities.
While Cornell was statistically outplayed in several areas — notably on the faceoff — it stuck to its gameplan and came out with a critical victory.
The Red did not find similar fortune in Charlotte earlier in the weekend when it lost to Penn State by six goals. After falling behind by eight goals, the chances of a comeback looked bleak.
However, Cornell did manage to cut the Nittany Lions’ lead down to three at the beginning of the fourth quarter. But in the end, the Red was unable to stop the nation’s second-best offense.
Next week, Cornell faces yet another top opponent when it will square off against No. 4 Yale in New Haven to begin Ivy League play. Gametime is set for 1 p.m. Saturday.