With a chance to remain undefeated on the line, men’s lacrosse traveled to Happy Valley this past Saturday to take on Penn State (2-6, 0-0 Big Ten). In a game that was tied on four separate occasions, including twice in the fourth quarter, it was the Red who eventually notched the deciding goal with just under two minutes left in the game. Fighting adversity all throughout the contest, Cornell found a way to win, 16-15, to stay undefeated on the year.
Cornell (5-0, 0-0 Ivy) entered the weekend as the No. 4 team in the country. The Nittany Lions were coming off a close loss against Penn. This game, however, started in the polar opposite manner to the Red’s previous match against Ohio State.
Conell stormed out of the gate strongly, scoring the first six goals of the game within 11 minutes to create a considerable gap. Fifth year forward John Piatelli had a hat trick in under five minutes, scoring the first three of the day. Penn State was able to respond late in the first, but the Red headed into the second quarter leading, 6-2.
In a game highlighted by comebacks, the first major one came in the second quarter. Penn State opened up the scoring in the period, putting two on the board in the first three minutes to bring the Red’s lead down to two. Cornell was able to respond with a goal from junior defenseman Danny Boccafola.
However, it could not hold for long, as the Nittany Lions ended the half with four unanswered goals. After holding a comfortable lead, the Red found itself heading to the locker room at halftime trailing, 8-7.
“I think really across the board there were some sloppy defensive plays and some forced shots on the offensive end, and then just a bunch of faceoff violations,” said Head Coach Connor Buczek ’15. “That really ended up in us being a man down on a number of possessions but also just giving away possession without having the opportunity to fight for that ground ball.”
The Red started the second half much like the first, starting hot with four consecutive goals to reclaim the lead. Piatelli increased his goal count to five on the day, while sophomore midfielder Hugh Kelleher tacked on his first and junior attacker Michael Long got his second.
Long struck again with just over four minutes left to secure a hat trick, and senior attacker Billy Coyle got on the board with just under three minutes left to wrap up the Red’s scoring in the third. The Nittany Lions continued to stay in it, scoring two of its own in the period to keep the score close. Heading into the final quarter, the Red led, 13-10.
Once again, it came down to the last 15 minutes to decide the contest. Cornell struck first in the fourth when sophomore attacker CJ Kirst found the back of the net just 33 seconds in for his second goal of the day. Nevertheless, just as the Red had built another comfortable lead, it was taken away. The Nittany Lions went on its final streak of the day, scoring four unanswered goals in less than six minutes to tie it up at 14 apiece.
With just over six minutes left in the game, Long managed to break the tie with his fourth goal of the game on the back of a man-up advantage. Refusing to be put away, Penn State equalized the game for the fourth time with five and a half minutes remaining.
This would be the final tie of the game, as junior Aiden Blake scored his first goal of the match in a crucial moment with just under two minutes left. The Red forced a Nittany Lion turnover on the ensuing possession, and ran out the clock to win a thriller, 16-15.
“For us it was just about resetting a little bit and getting ourselves back to who we are and playing Big Red lacrosse,” Buczek said. “We wanted to ride the ball a little better than we did in the first half and be a little more disciplined in situations. We had some great veteran leadership that helped make a couple of those plays in the middle of the field and really start turn the tide in our direction pretty early in the second half.”
The Red gets its first taste of Ivy League action this weekend, when it hosts No. 11 Yale (3-1, 0-0 Ivy) at noon on Saturday at Schoellkopf Field. The game will also be available on ESPN+.
“It’s the first Ivy League game for this program since 2019, so it’s big,” Buczek said. “The conference is always competitive –– obviously Yale in recent memory has had a lot of success, so we’re looking forward to the ability to host a great team on Schoellkopf and compete in our first in-conference game in years.”