After downing Albany, Towson and High Point all by seven-plus points in its first three games of 2020, men’s lacrosse was up for its biggest test of the season Sunday against then-No. 18 Ohio State — Cornell’s first ranked opponent of the season.
The win was enough to bring Cornell up five spots on the Inside Lacrosse rankings — from No. 10 to No. 5. Meanwhile, Ohio State slipped to No. 19.
Both teams traded multiple goals early on in a run-and-gun rampant tempo. In the opening quarter alone, there were four ties and three lead changes.
The Red struck first — less than two minutes into the game, freshman standout attackman Mikey Long spun his defender and landed in the crease for an acrobatic goal.
Touted as one of the most complete freshmen in all of college lacrosse, Long showed his ability to score, carry and pass throughout the contest, finishing with two goals. The young attackman was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week on Monday for the second week in a row.
On the other side of the field, Ohio State featured its fair share of talent, too. In attack, Buckeyes senior Tre LeClaire kept the Cornell defense busy all game long, using his 6-foot-2-inch, 211 lbs frame to free himself into open shots. The Buckeye attackman was a tough assignment for the Red, finishing the game with six goals and two assists, and kept the teams tied up after the first quarter.
“We knew he was the shooter and we had to be stronger as a unit on defense,” said sophomore defenseman Gavin Adler.
Ohio State was able to stay in the game early on largely due to its domination of the faceoff X, where it won nine out of the first 10 draws and later set its school record for faceoff wins.
Cornell’s faceoff unit had its worst performance of the season so far, finishing the day with just seven wins on 37 draws.
Faceoffs — a contributing factor to last year’s NCAA Tournament miss — have been an issue that Cornell seemed to have corrected in its opening games this campaign. But the tilt against the Buckeyes brought that weak point of Cornell’s game back to the forefront.
The defensive unit, finding itself playing more possessions than usual, rallied to force multiple turnovers, getting the ball upfield and empowering its offense.
In a game where Cornell was unafraid to get aggressive with its opponent, one of Cornell’s main aggressors was freshman midfielder Danny Boccofola, who contributed to a whopping total of 25 caused-turnovers on the day.
The hard defensive work paid off, allowing Cornell’s offense to attempt to pull away in the second quarter. Midway through the quarter, senior attackman Jeff Teat took advantage of a five-on-five power play to complete his first-half hat trick.
Cornell’s most talented offensive weapon finished the game with four goals and two assists, becoming Cornell’s third all-time leader in points with 262 career points.
Junior attackman John Piatelli got the hot hand, too, leading the offensive effort by scoring four goals in the first half. He would finish the game with five goals and three assists. On Monday, the junior was named the Ivy League Player of the Week.
“I took advantage of the opportunities my teammates gave me,” Piatelli said. “Our offense is unselfish and has a lot of different weapons in terms of versatility.”
Entering the second half with a 9-7 lead, Cornell’s offense once again attempted to put distance between itself and the Buckeyes.
In the third quarter, the Red went on a five-goal run with Teat quarterbacking the attack and looking to get his teammates open looks. With eight minutes left in the third, Teat found the upper right corner of the Buckeye goal.
Early in the final quarter, junior midfielder Jonathan Donville extended the Red’s lead to 16-10. Donville would later provide the team’s 17th, game-winning goal for his third tally of the day.
But then Cornell’s dominance began to unwind — the fourth quarter would be the only one in which the Red would be outscored by the home team.
Despite the six-goal deficit, Ohio State managed to resurrect its offense to score three unanswered goals as the clock wound down.
Amidst a near Buckeye comeback, the Red defense needed to step up. Midway through the fourth, Ohio State’s LeClaire fired a rocket of a shot at the Cornell net. Reacting quickly, Cornell’s Adler jumped in front of the shot to block the goal with his body. The ricochet then went back to another Ohio State player, whose shot was blocked once again — this time by senior midfielder Sam Duggan.
“That’s just the mentality of our defense and the way we play,” said Adler. “It wasn’t anything new, we just call that a Sunday.”
In the dying moments of the game, Cornell was once again forced to make a big-time play. This time, sophomore goaltender Chayse Ierlan came up with the late-game heroics. As the seconds ticked down, Ohio State made one last push to tie the game up. A Buckeye attackman charged at the net for a last-second shot, but Ierlan made a clutch save to seal the 17-16 win.
“We knew that as long as we stayed focused and continued to execute the details, we could finish out the game,” Ierlan said.
Cornell will now face off against its toughest opponent so far this year, this time with No. 2 Penn State in the Crown Lacrosse Classic in Charlotte, N.C. on Sunday.
“We can beat any team we want, as long as we play our game,” Piatelli said.