Men’s lacrosse (4-0, 0-0 Ivy) had its first major test this past Saturday when it hosted No. 5 Ohio State (4-1, 0-0 Big Ten) at Schoellkopf Field. The Red entered the match as the No. 9 team in the country, but this matchup was an opportunity to further solidify itself as a top 10 program in the nation. Despite a bumpy start, the Red rose to the occasion, storming back over the final three quarters to win 14-11. Following this win, the Red now sits as the fourth ranked team in the country.
It was a slow start for the Red, as the Buckeyes came out of the gate hot. Ohio State put the pressure on early, scoring three goals in the first quarter. Despite the Red winning the faceoff battle 3-1 in the period, it could not find the back of the net, and went to the second quarter in an early 3-0 hole.
However, the deficit did not last long into the second. Cornell roared back, tying the game with three goals in the span of three and a half minutes. Sophomore midfielder Hugh Kelleher broke the shutout with his seventh goal of the season, two minutes into the quarter. Three minutes later, senior attacker Billy Coyle got the Red to within one with an unassisted goal. Another 30 seconds later, the game was tied off with a shot by junior attacker Michael Long.
The Red was far from finished in the second quarter. In another span of just over three minutes, the team scored four more goals, two each from fifth year attacker John Piatelli and sophomore attacker CJ Kirst. Though Ohio State was able to respond with a goal just seconds before halftime, Cornell went into the locker room having erased its early deficit and leading 7-4. It was an impressive turnaround but did not come unexpectedly by the Red.
“I think it was just sticking to our game plan, sticking to our system,” said Head Coach Connor Buczek ’15. “Our guys knew that we were on the cusp…and so we had to keep chopping and keep doing our thing. I don’t think there’s any specific changes, but obviously that first shot fell and from there it kind of rolled.”
Returning for the third quarter, the Buckeyes began to mount a comeback. Ohio State scored only 15 seconds into the second half to cut the Red’s lead to two. Cornell was able to short circuit this resurgence initially, as Piatelli and Coyle notched their third and second goals, respectively.
Disaster struck for Cornell in the middle of the third quarter. The Buckeyes scored four unanswered goals in a three minute span, including two within five seconds of each other due to an extra-man goal. Just like that, the game was tied once more at 9-all.
The Red was able to take a lead into the final period, as junior midfielder Aiden Blake got on the board to give Cornell a slim one-point lead. Nevertheless, the Buckeyes came back again with a goal early in the fourth quarter to tie the game once more.
It was only midway through the final quarter that the Red was finally able to shut the door. Kirst gave the Red its ultimate lead of the day with an unassisted goal. 30 seconds later, Kelleher put Cornell up by two, before Piatelli and Kirst each notched one more to cap off their days with four goals apiece.
The Buckeyes found the back of the net one more time late in the fourth quarter, but it was unable to keep up with the Red’s offensive attack. With no scoring for the final two and a half minutes, the Red hung on to secure a 14-11 victory. Kirst and Piatelli led the scoring for Cornell with four each while Coyle and Kelleher finished with two and Long and Blake each notched one. Senior goalie Chase Ierlan finished with 11 saves and a .500 save percentage.
“We can take some confidence in the outcome and know that we’re a pretty good team, but also know that we’ve got a lot to work on,” Buczek said. “But the nice part and the thing that didn’t waver throughout the course of that week was the effort played, and that’s something we pride ourselves on at Cornell lacrosse.”
Now, only Maryland (5-0, 0-0 Big Ten), Virginia (5-0, 1-0 ACC) and Rutgers (6-0, 0-0 Big Ten) are ahead of it in the national rankings. Cornell will have another taste of Big Ten play this weekend when it hits the road to face Penn State (2-4, 0-0 Big Ten) on Saturday at noon. The game will be available to watch on Big Ten Network.
“Certainly for us early in the week we are focused on ourselves and clean up some of the things that maybe we didn’t do so well last week,” Buczek said. “And then as we get later in the week we turn our focus to our opponent. [Penn State] is a great team, they’re well-coached, their record may not reflect just how good they are. They’re a team that’s gonna scrap and battle for 60 minutes.”