Amanda Burkart/Sun Staff Photographer

Senior goalkeeper Chayse Ierlan had a 75 percent save rate when the Red faced Lehigh last year.

February 23, 2023

PREVIEW: No. 4 Men’s Lacrosse Faces Lehigh in Home Opener

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While most Cornellians are looking forward to relaxing over February break, No. 4 men’s lacrosse (1-0) has its sights set on its home debut. Coming off of a tight 12-10 win against the University at Albany (0-2) last Saturday, the Red is looking to improve to 2-0 when it takes on Lehigh (2-0) this Saturday, Feb. 25.

Cornell opened its season with a win for the fourth consecutive year last week when it topped the Great Danes. The game was a back-and-forth contest with numerous lead changes, with Albany jumping out to the lead in the first.

“I thought we started a little slow to be perfectly honest,” said head coach Connor Buczek ’15. “I thought we didn’t have the type of intensity and effort that we wanted to… [but] you saw us get into a better rhythm and compete a little harder in the second half.”

The Red stepped up defensively in the second half, particularly senior goalkeeper Chayse Ierlan. Ierlan finished with 10 saves on the day, stopping five of six shots on goal in the third quarter.

“Down the stretch I thought he did a fantastic job,” Buczek said. “Specifically how he was making saves, a lot of clean saves, caught balls that allowed us to turn and get the ball up and out quickly and not give them an opportunity to ride it back.”

The game against the Great Danes also marked the return of senior midfielder JJ Lombardi, who was playing his first game since an injury early in the 2022 season. Lombardi reintroduced himself quickly, scoring the second goal of the match.

“We’ve seen how much he’s been through and the adversity he’s faced over the last calendar year, so to see him that early in that game take that step –– and see him take a step mentally and in his confidence and feel like he’s really back –– I was really proud of him and happy for him,” Buczek said.

It was also a big day for junior attacker CJ Kirst, who picked up where he left off last year, racking up six goals. He has cemented himself as the clear number one option for the Red on offense. Kirst got Cornell’s offense going against the Great Danes with a crucial goal late in the opening quarter, the first of a natural hat trick. 

“It was a big goal… just an effort play, great job by our defensive personnel to transition to the offensive end,” Buczek said. “Obviously CJ hitting one in transition was big. Anytime you score in that last minute I think is a momentum goal, so [it was] important for us to get back on track there and a heck of a goal.” 

The Red will have to contend with a Lehigh team that is coming off of a comeback victory against Hobart. Down 10-4 midway through the second quarter, the Mountain Hawks went on a 15-3 run to close out the game.

“They’ve got a lot of great personnel,” Buczek said. “Ultimately, it’s a team that’s putting up a lot of points, they’ve got a lot of weapons, and so for us, it’s making sure our group is up to the task.”

Lehigh’s strength comes at the x in the form of fifth-year faceoff specialist Mike Sisselberger. An All-American for the past two seasons, Sisselberger went 19 for 34 on faceoffs against Hobart last week.

“I think it starts at the x –– they’ve got a perennial All-American there that can really take over games,” Buczek said. “I think it starts there possessions wise, we have to make sure that we’re up to the task and ready to handle their All-American at the faceoff x.”

When the two teams faced off last year, it was a defensive battle throughout. Ierlan finished with 15 saves, and the Red came away with a 9-5 win. 

Cornell’s contest on Saturday is set to start at noon. It will be available on ESPN+.