Coming off of its first loss of the season, No. 7 men’s lacrosse (4-1) is preparing to start a series of conference matchups. The Red’s Ivy League schedule starts this Saturday, March 18, when it travels to New Haven, Connecticut to take on No. 8 Yale (3-1).
Cornell had been rolling through its first four games before falling to Penn State last Saturday, 10-6. It was the Red’s lowest offensive output since 2017.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to,” said head coach Connor Buczek ’15. “We didn’t handle the ball that well… and at the end of the day we didn’t make the plays down the stretch.”
For a program that expects excellence, this performance was far below the norm. Nevertheless, Coach Buczek believes his team will keep the same mentality of getting better with every game.
“Win or loss, keep getting better,” Buczek said. “It’s a long year and we’re only a few games into this thing, but we’ve got to improve every single day. The mentality coming out should be the same at really any point this early in the season.”
The Red now gets set to take on a Yale team which is coming off a close two point win against Denver. Cornell last played the Bulldogs in the opening round of the 2022 Ivy League tournament, a 14-11 loss.
“Yale being in conference obviously has a ramped up importance and the significance that playing with an Ivy League [team] has,” Buczek said. “They’re a great team. They are a heck of a program and obviously had a lot of success recently, so [Yale is] certainly a team that we’ve got to come in prepared and play our best if we want to get a win.”
On offense, Yale is led by senior Matt Brandau (23 points) and sophomore Chris Lyons (18 points). The Bulldogs is averaging 15 goals per game and will face a Cornell unit which is ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 9.20 goals per game.
“It’s a good group, it’s a balanced group, it’s a productive group and an aggressive group,” Buczek said. “It’s going to take a full team effort –– our seven on defense are going to have to play united to help slow them down.”
On the back end, the Bulldogs has had stellar play from junior goalkeeper Jared Paquette. He leads the nation in saves per game, with 16.50, and is ranked third in save percentage, at 0.596.
Yale is also the top squad in the country on the ride, with opponents converting successful clears just 72.3 percent of the time. Coach Buczek emphasized the need for high quality looks to get on the board against Paquette.
“Share the ball, create good opportunities, don’t settle for low angle ones,” Buczek said. “Last week I thought we settled for some shots instead of working for great ones. Obviously he’s a very good goalie –– we’re gonna have to test him and create great opportunities if we want to score goals.”
The Red has struggled at the x throughout the season, winning just 43 percent of faceoffs. However, going up against a Yale team that wins just 46 percent of its faceoffs, Cornell has an opportunity to control the possession game in a manner it has failed to thus far.
“Possessions allow you to win this game and possessions save your defense from having to make stops sometimes and can keep everybody fresh,” Buczek said. “I think it’s always something we’re working on and hoping to win that category on the stat sheet.”
The Red’s contest is set to start at noon at Reese Stadium. It will be available on ESPN+.