After starting the season undefeated through five games, Cornell men’s lacrosse’s impressive run was tragically cut short after the Ivy League suspended spring sports due to the mounting COVID-19 pandemic.
Cornell started off 2020 in red-hot fashion with a blowout win against Albany. While the Red showed off how fluid its offense was, the team also let the lacrosse world know that its “Blue Collar Ivy” persona was as alive as ever. Hard body checks, gritty fights for ground balls and good old-fashioned hustle plays by the Red’s midfielders and defensemen set the tone for the season’s start.
The momentum continued in the second weekend as the Red’s bouts against Towson and High Point were similarly comfortable, with the latter featuring a goal-barrage in which Cornell netted a season-high 21 goals.
The team’s first real challenge came against Ohio State, in which the Red confidently held a lead but had to fend off a fierce comeback in the final frame. While the offense had carried the team in the first three contests, defense made all the difference in the one-goal win against the Buckeyes.
In what ended up being its season finale, Cornell battled against a powerhouse Penn State program ranked No. 2 at the time. The game was close throughout, but clutch goals with seconds left on the game clock helped the Red edge out and achieve the No. 2 ranking.
One of the rising stars for Cornell was freshman attackman Michael Long. Hailing from New Jersey’s Delbarton School, Long had plenty of hype behind his name due to his high school achievements, which included being named an All-American and N.J. Player of the Year.
Long scored 11 goals and notched eight assists during his rookie season, making him one of Cornell’s top-five point leaders. The rest of college lacrosse took notice, as Long was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week twice. A flexible weapon in attack, the neophyte showed that he could handle, pass and score against some of the country’s best programs.
Another freshman proved to be key for the Red, as Angelo Petrakis was a spark plug at faceoff. Petrakis won 46 out of 75 faceoff draws across five games and looked to be the final piece that could take the team to championship-level play. The freshman faceoff specialist also added three goals, the last and most notable of which being the clutch game-winner against Penn State.
Cornell’s offense was nearly unstoppable this season. Over the course of five games, the Red scored a whopping 92 goals, a scoring rate that was the second-best in the nation. While the young core made significant contributions, the upperclassmen helped solidify wins with consistent firepower.
Junior attackman John Piatelli led the team in goals with 20. An Honorable Mention All-Ivy Selection last season, Piatelli was on pace to steamroll his previous season-best tally of 45. The attackman was named to the USILA Team of the Week and the Ivy League Player of the Week following a dominant five-goal and three-assist performance against Ohio State.
It also helped that a once-in-a-generation talent led the offensive unit, and Cornell’s talisman was none other than senior attackman Jeff Teat. Teat led the team with 27 points, balanced between 12 goals and 15 assists. Arguably, his most clutch moment came late during the win over Penn State, in which he scored with 28 seconds left.
A Tewaaraton Award Watch List honoree, Teat became the Red’s third all time leading point-scorer this season with 268 points. Touted as one of the best college players of all time, the Canadian will likely continue to wow as he climbs the echelons of lacrosse.
While Cornell’s future is bright, it is also uncertain. On March 13, the NCAA Division 1 Council Committee recommended granting spring athletes an additional year of eligibility. The ruling, which still has to be officially decided, could potentially allow the Red to retain key seniors such as Teat, and midfielders Brandon Salvatore and Connor Fletcher.
The Red looked truly unstoppable this year, only ranked behind Syracuse, a squad that it would have played on April 7. In typical fashion, Cornell’s schedule was loaded with multiple ranked teams outside of an ultra-competitive Ivy League.
In doing so, Cornell showcased its elite talent, dramatically putting away nationally-ranked Ohio State and Penn State. While external circumstances got in the way of this season’s impressive efforts, the Red has a history of rallying around obstacles.
On March 14, the Cornell family lost Jim Case, a beloved athletic trainer who had worked with the Red for 32 years and instilled a sense of diligence in the squad through his quiet efforts.
Three days later, Cornell celebrated St. George’s Day to honor the death of former captain George Boiardi ’04. In a 2004 game against Binghamton, the senior defenseman was struck by a ball and fell to the ground — he could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead a few hours later. A leader on and off the field, Boiardi epitomized what it meant to be a Cornell lacrosse student-athlete through how he carried himself, treated his teammates and played the game he loved. His No. 21 is retired and embroidered on a red hardhat, symbolically representing the team’s core values of hard work and leadership.
If the Red’s younger players continue to embody the cornerstones of Cornell’s storied program, it is possible they have the sheer talent to propel them to championship glory in the near future.