For the first time in three years, men’s lacrosse faced Ivy League competition on Schoellkopf Field this past Saturday. The Red hosted No. 14 Yale (3-2, 0-1 Ivy) for a chance to remain undefeated on the season. In a game all too familiar for the Red, runs and comebacks kept both teams alive until the final whistle, but once again, it was Cornell that prevailed, 13-12.
The Red (6-0, 1-0 Ivy) entered the weekend as the No. 4 team in the country. Coming off a notable two game stretch in which it swept its Big 10 schedule, against Ohio State and Penn State, Cornell was eager to start off its Ivy League play with a win.
The team came out of the gate looking like it wanted to win, erasing an early 2-0 deficit with four unanswered goals, leadingd the Red 4-2 after the first. Sophomore attacker CJ Kirst notched his first of four on the day, while fifth year attacker John Piatelli scored two.
“He’s [Kirst] just mature beyond his years for a guy who’s playing in only his sixth career game,” said Head Coach Connor Buczek ’15. “Obviously a guy with a ton of poise, plays as hard as anybody and loves playing the game the right way with his teammates.”
Similar to the last game, the Red found itself in some trouble early in the second quarter, allowing consecutive goals to fall behind, 5-4. However, the Bulldog’s lead was short lived, as Cornell came roaring back with four of its own to take an 8-5 lead into the locker room.
Kirst tied the game at five with a goal on a man advantage and junior midfielder Aidan Blake found the back of the net twice, his first coming on a nice feed across the hashes from fifth year midfielder Matt Licciardi. Senior attacker Billy Coyle got his first as well, dashing past his defender at the 30 yard line and beating the Yale goalkeeper. All four goals were scored in a span of under four minutes.
“I thought offensively, our spacing and our pace was great,” Buczek said. “We were sharing the ball – those guys were playing together and they were playing team offensive as well as we could ask for.”
The lead only grew for Cornell coming back from halftime. The Red scored three more goals in the third quarter while simultaneously blanking Yale, its first shutout quarter since February 26 against Lehigh.
Licciardi got his second of the day, making a run from the 40 yard line and finishing with his left. Blake recorded a hat trick on a man-up goal, and Kirst got his third. The Red went into a final quarter with a comfortable lead, 11-5.
Cornell began the fourth with some extra cushioning, with Piatelli getting a hat trick of his own just one minute into play, but despite the Red holding a comfortable 12-5 lead, another Yale comeback was on the horizon.
Refusing to be put away, the Bulldogs stormed back into the game, scoring five unanswered goals in under six minutes of game time. And just like that, the Red held onto a slim two goal lead.
Cornell was able to nip the comeback in the bud with six and a half minutes left in the game, when Kirst beat the Bulldog goalie stick side for what was ultimately the decisive goal of the contest. Kirst leads the team with 19 goals on the season.
“The nice part for us [was that] time was on our side,” Buczek said. “When you create that deficit for a team like that, you know they’re not going to go away. You know they’re going to keep fighting, but fortunately at that point in the fourth quarter, time is on your side, so you just need to put a foot in the ground and make one big play.”
Yale made it interesting down the stretch, scoring two more goals to cut the lead to just one. However, with just under three and a half minutes left, it was the Red’s defense making the necessary plays, denying the Bulldogs and hanging on to win another thriller, 13-12.
“The hope is just [to] get what we need,” Buczek said. “One more stop – obviously we ended up stretching it to needing two more stops and our guys did just that. Guys that can step up and make the play, step up and make the play.”
The Red will take its undefeated season on the road this coming weekend, when it travels to Philadelphia to take on No. 6 Penn (3-2, 0-1 Ivy) at 1 p.m. on Saturday.