With spring break in full effect last week, the only focus of the men’s lacrosse team was competing. Facing off against Harvard (7-2, 2-1 Ivy) this past Saturday and Syracuse (4-7, 1-2 ACC) on Monday, the Red played two scrappy teams in a two day span. The two matches played out quite differently, but both reached the same result: wins for Cornell.
The Red (10-1, 3-1 Ivy) entered the resumption of classes as the fifth ranked team in the country.
The team wrapped up break with a home game against the Crimson, looking to take sole possession of first place in the Ivy League.
The game started off slow for both teams, with defense on display all throughout the first quarter. Harvard’s goalkeeper Kyle Mullin was able to keep the Red in check for much of the first quarter, with the sole exception of fifth year attacker John Piatelli, who found the back of the net with just over six minutes left.
Cornell’s defense also held strong, limiting Harvard’s opportunities and forcing turnovers. The first quarter ended 1-1, and the game appeared to be headed for a defensive battle.
However, the tide turned in the second. The Red had been finding shots on goal throughout the match, but it had not been able to convert. This changed when sophomore midfielder Hugh Kelleher broke the tie with nine minutes left in the half.
Kelleher’s goal unleashed the Cornell offense, as they went on to score five more unanswered goals in the second quarter. Junior attacker Spencer Wirtheim, senior attacker Billy Coyle, freshman midfielder Alex Holmes and sophomore attacker CJ Kirst all notched goals before Kelleher finished off the half by securing a second point. This run featured dominance in the faceoff circle, as well as the Red’s ability to transition its defense quickly into offense. Cornell went to the locker room with a comfortable 7-1 lead.
“I just think our shots started to fall,” said Head Coach Connor Buczek ’15. “I don’t think the first quarter was necessarily bad offense – the goalie made some great saves and we maybe hit some good spots, but certainly continued to have some success in the ride, continuing to have success on the face-off x really got us into a rhythm.”
The halftime break did nothing to stop the Red’s hot streak, as junior attacker Michael Long scored just eight seconds into the third quarter. This was the first goal of a natural hat trick for Long, and in just under 12 minutes, Cornell had made a close 1-1 contest into a 10-1 blowout.
“The fact that we were able to span that though halftime, that our guys were able to come out in the second half and pick up where they left off…just a really mature moment for our team to manage that break and come out with that same fire and intensity,” Buczek said.
Harvard began to show some life in the third quarter, rattling off four consecutive goals to bring the match to a five goal difference. This was the closest it came to catching the Red for the rest of the game, as Piatelli and sophomore midfielder Ryan Sheehan responded to end the third quarter with a 12-5 lead. Sheehan’s goal was his first in his Cornell career.
The Red’s leading goal scorers showed up in the fourth quarter, as Kirst and Piatelli each notched two on a 4-0 Cornell run. The game slowed down for the final 10 minutes as the Red extended possessions to run out the clock. Cornell finished with a convincing 17-9 win.
Just two days later, the Red went on the road to the Carrier Dome for the latest chapter in the Cornell-Syracuse rivalry. The game started disastrously for the Red, as the Orange built up a 4-0 lead in the first six minutes. Piatelli responded with an unassisted goal, but the Orange scored three of the last four goals of the quarter, including one with 17 seconds left, to lead, 7-2.
“Going to the Dome is always a challenge,” Buczek said. “They played a great team that are tough and as always, a challenging place to go in and get a win.”
Cornell began to show some life in the second quarter, as Piatelli, Long and Kirst found the back of the net. Piatelli scored twice, but Syracuse matched with four goals of its own. The Red went to the half down, 11-6.
The team continued to inch back into the game in the third quarter, as Piatelli and Coyle each scored to cut the deficit to three. Syracuse was able to respond with one before the trio of Piatelli, Coyle and Kirst struck once again to bring the Red within one. What was once a six goal lead had been nearly eliminated, and the third quarter ended with the Orange holding onto a slim 12-11 lead.
It took four minutes into the fourth quarter for the Red to take its first lead of the game. Kelleher got his first of the match before Piatelli found his sixth, giving Cornell a one goal lead. This did not last, as Syracuse scored three of the next four goals to reclaim a one goal lead with under two minutes to play.
Remaining calm under pressure, the Red was able to go to work on offense one last time in regulation, and Long came up clutch with 24 seconds left to tie the game. For the first time this season, Cornell went to overtime, locked in a 15-15 tie.
As overtime is played in a sudden death format, the opening face-off is crucial, and the Red was able to secure it. After working the Orange defense, Coyle was able to find an open Kelleher, who beat the Syracuse goalkeeper to end the game. Cornell completed the comeback, and won another thriller, 16-15.
“I think these guys believed in the process and in themselves,” Buczek said. “They played hard and they earned their ability to win that game and make their own luck.”
The Red has another taste of non-conference action when it hosts No. 12 Army (9-2, 5-1 Patriot League) at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at Schoellkopf Field.