Men’s lacrosse got its first taste of postseason action in three years when it took on Yale (11-4, 4-2 Ivy) in the semifinals of the Ivy League Tournament. After winning a share of the Ivy League title and entering the tournament as the No. 2 seed, the Red was ready to make a run. However, a goose egg from the Cornell offense in the second quarter was enough to make the difference, and Yale took the game, 14-11.
The Red (11-4, 4-2 Ivy) entered the Ivy League tournament riding a major win on the road against Princeton to lock up a portion of the Ivy League title. With an opportunity to improve its standing heading into the national tournament, the rematch against Yale was a major test.
The game did not start off as Cornell planned – as in previous games, the team fell behind early. However, the Red did not let it get too far away, as halfway through the first quarter, junior attacker Michael Long got them on the board. Long used a pick behind the net to wrap around before going five-hole to beat the Yale goalkeeper.
Long’s goal jump started the Cornell offense, as the junior went on to have a natural hat trick to give the Red a 3-2 lead. Nevertheless, in a game that was back-and-forth all day, the Bulldogs responded with two of its own to regain a 4-3 lead.
Fifth-year attacker John Piatelli was able to tie it at four apiece, recovering a shot from fifth year midfielder Matt Licciardi in front of the net and burying it. Piatelli scored once more in the quarter, as did the Bulldogs. The first period ended tied, 5-5.
The second quarter was the ultimate difference maker in the game. Despite recording five shots on goal, Cornell was unable to find the back of the net, and were shut out for the first time in seven quarters. However, Yale did not have the same difficulties scoring, putting up three of its own to take an 8-5 lead into halftime.
“We just didn’t finish our opportunities,” said Head Coach Connor Buczek ’15. “We had some fantastic looks [but the] goalie made some great saves so you tip your cap and you hope to find other ways to get on the score sheet.”
The Red’s woes continued when it returned from the locker room, as the Bulldogs scored the first three goals of the third quarter. Yale had scored six unanswered goals, and a tie game had become an 11-5 deficit for Cornell.
The Red finally broke a scoring drought of more than 20 minutes of game time when Piatelli notched his third of the day. Long began the goal from behind the net, working the Yale defense into a double team before finding a wide open Piatelli in front of the crease.
Piatelli’s goal once again ignited Cornell’s offense, as senior attacker Billy Coyle and sophomore midfielder Hugh Kelleher got on the board to bring the Red within three. The Bulldogs responded with a goal, but Long ended the third quarter with his fourth on the day. The Red went into the final 15 minutes down, 12-9.
Unlike in the previous three quarters, Cornell scored first in the final period. Coyle found his second after winning a one-on-one matchup from behind the net, the Red won the ensuing faceoff, and just 32 seconds later, junior attacker Spencer Wirtheim found Long in front of the crease for his fifth goal of the day. Just like that, Cornell was down by one goal, 12-11.
Despite the Red’s run, it was at this point that the Bulldogs shut the door. Yale shut out Cornell for the final 10 minutes of the game, while scoring two of its own to cushion the lead. In the end, it was an early end to Cornell’s hopes for an Ivy League Tournament title, as it lost, 14-11.
“I think a lot of it was the theory – any time you’re playing multiple sets of defense in a row without that rest because you’re self inflicting – it’s a really tough battle,” Buczek said. “They got a great face off guy too who made it a challenge on us to get consistent possessions, and so between those two things, if your offense isn’t touching and your defense is playing a lot, it bends the field a little in that direction.”
Despite the loss, the Red found out this past Sunday night that it had clinched a bid to the NCAA tournament. Six teams from the Ivy League qualified for the tournament, by far the most from a single conference.
The Red enters as the No. 7 seed, and will host Ohio State (10-5, 3-2 Big Ten) on Sunday, May 15, at 2:30 p.m. at Schoellkopf Field. This is not the first time the Red and the Buckeyes face off this season, as the two met in Ithaca on March 5, when the Red won a thrilling 14-11 contest.
“They continue to have a fantastic face off unit, they’re really good at special teams, they’re good at extra man, they’re good at man down, they clear the ball incredibly well,” Buczek said. “For us, the key really going to be having some success in the middle of the field and winning both ends.”