Amanda Burkart/Sun Staff Photographer

Sophomore midfielder Hugh Kelleher looks to pass.

March 30, 2022

Men’s Lacrosse Splits a Pair Against Penn and Colgate

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Men’s lacrosse got its first taste of defeat this past Sunday, ending a six-game unbeaten streak that began their season. After falling into an early deficit against Penn (4-2, 1-1 Ivy), the Red was not able to mount enough of a comeback. Working on a short week, they had an opportunity to rebound against Colgate (2-6, 1-3 Patriot League), and did just that.

The Red (7-1, 1-1 Ivy) entered the week ranked once again within the top five nationally. It began a stretch of three road games in Philadelphia, where it matched up against the Quakers. 

It was clear from the get-go that Penn had no intentions of allowing Cornell to remain undefeated. The Quakers scored just 46 seconds into the contest and held that lead until sophomore attacker CJ Kirst was able to even it up with three and a half minutes left in the first. Penn quickly responded, putting up two more goals with under two minutes left in the quarter to lead, 3-1.

The Red found itself in even more trouble in the second. After no scoring occurred on either side for the first six minutes, the Quakers found the back of the net three times in a 64 second stretch, including two within 11 seconds of each other. Penalties were killer for Cornell, as two of Penn’s three goals in this run were scored with a man advantage. 

“We didn’t play our best,” said Head Coach Connor Buczek ’15. “I think they out-ground balled us significantly and were faster…we didn’t play a full 60 minutes and it kind of cost us that one.”

Cornell showed some life after five unanswered goals, with fifth year attacker John Piatelli and Kirst each responding. Piatelli scored again with just over two minutes left in the half, but Penn converted three more of its own, including another man-up goal with 48 seconds remaining. The Red went to the locker room down, 9-4.

The second half did not begin promisingly for the Red, as Penn added two more in the first five minutes to widen the lead to 11-4. It was at this point when Cornell made an attempt at resurgence, ripping off four straight goals. Kirst and Piatelli each achieved a hat trick, while junior midfielder Aiden Blake and junior attacker Spencer Wirtheim got their first. Wirtheim’s goal was his first of the season.

However, 11-8 was as close as Cornell could make it. The Quakers responded with 18 seconds left in the quarter, before putting up two more early in the fourth to extend to a six goal lead. Penn never looked back, and while the Red was able to score some late goals, two of which were supported by a man advantage, it was not enough. Cornell suffered its first loss of the season, 15-11.

“It was just not being able to really ever claw our way all the way back,” Buczek said. “Everytime we got close they seemed to answer.”

The Red had little time to sit on this loss, as it was right back on the field Tuesday night at Colgate. While the Raiders began the scoring, 1-0 was its only lead of the night. Cornell ran off four straight goals, one each from Piatelli, Kirst, junior attacker Michael Long and sophomore midfielder Hugh Kelleher. The Red led 4-2 after the first.

After Colgate scored first in the period again, Cornell regained control of the game, going on another streak of four goals, including a natural hat trick from Kirst. This game played out quite differently from Penn, with the Red showing much stronger ball movement in the offensive end.

“I think the guys committed to playing team ball,” Buczek said. “They did an outstanding job of scoring a lot of assisted goals, merging together, using the backside, swinging the ball quickly – most defenses struggle to manage that when you do it well.”

The Red returned from halftime leading 8-4. After exchanging goals early in the third, the team went on its third streak of four unanswered goals, this one in a three and a half minute span. 

From there Cornell never looked back, maintaining control of the contest for the final quarter and a half and cruising to a 16-9 win. Kirst and Piatelli led the way once again with six goals each, and the Red got the bounce-back game it needed.

“There was not a whole lot of experience in bouncing back and having that experience of coming off of a loss,” Buczek said. “Part of me does think there was something to having the ability to not stew on the loss too long – to certainly learn from it, put it behind, turn the page and go see another uniform.”

Cornell, now ranked seventh in the nation, will look to go back above .500 in Ivy League play when it travels to Hanover, New Hampshire, to take on Dartmouth (4-3, 0-1 Ivy) at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Cornell will return to Ithaca the following Saturday, April 9, to host Harvard (6-1, 2-0 Ivy) at 3 p.m. at Schoellkopf Field.