Aaron Snyder/Sun Staff Writer

Junior attacker CJ Kirst led the way for the Red with seven goals.

March 26, 2023

CJ Kirst Scores Seven as Men’s Lacrosse Tops Penn 18-12

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This article has been updated.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon at Schoellkopf, the No. 5 men’s lacrosse offense continued to light up the field. Coming off of a 20-goal performance against Yale, the Red put up 18 against No. 16 Penn, seven of which came from junior attacker CJ Kirst. Backed by strong play at the face-off x, the Red improved to 2-0 in Ivy play with an 18-12 win.

It took just 10 seconds for the Red (6-1, 2-0 Ivy) to get on the board. Freshman faceoff specialist Jack Cascadden won the opening face-off and took it into the Penn (3-4, 1-1 Ivy) defensive end, finding senior attacker Brian Piatelli just outside the crease for the score.

The Red’s lead was short-lived, as two minutes later Penn was able to respond with a low liner that beat senior goalkeeper Chayse Ierlan. The goal was the first of four consecutive for the Quakers, putting Cornell in an early hole.

With just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Red began to cut into Penn’s lead. An unforced turnover in Penn’s defensive end set up a Cornell opportunity, and junior attacker CJ Kirst was able to take advantage, firing a one hopper into the bottom-left corner of the net.

Kirst’s goal was the first of five in a row for the Red. With under a minute left in the opening quarter, a blocked Penn shot set up a transition offense for Cornell. Sophomore midfielder Michael Bozzi was able to run coast to coast, using a shot fake to get the Penn goalkeeper off balance before firing it in the back of the net. The Red trailed, 4-3, after the first.

In the second quarter, the Quakers had no response for Kirst. Using his signature question mark spin move, the junior scored the first two goals of the quarter from the same spot on the close right side to give Cornell the lead back. Kirst scored three goals in the quarter.

“It’s [the question mark move] something that I’ve always worked on,” Kirst said. “When we move the ball well and I’m just able to set that up it’s one of my favorite moves.”

Senior midfielder Aiden Blake capped off the scoring run for the Red. Blake recovered a ground ball off a shot by junior midfielder Andrew Dalton and knifed his way up the gut past the defense, getting a bounce shot to go from just outside the crease.

Needing to stop the bleeding, Penn was able to respond with a goal at the midway point of the quarter. However, the Cornell offense went back on the attack, scoring three more goals. Senior attacker Billy Coyle scored his first before assisting on Bozzi’s second. Two minutes later, Kirst got his fourth of the day to extend the Cornell lead to 9-5.

The Quakers responded before the end of the half, scoring two top-shelf goals from 10 yards out. With a chance to draw within one, Ierlan made a highlight reel save on a Penn look from just outside the crease. The Red went into the locker room leading, 9-7.

“The saves are a small microcosm of all the things that he’s [Ierlan] doing well for us,” said head coach Connor Buczek ’15. “An opportunity we don’t want him to have to save but comes through, backs up our defense, makes a heck of a save that at the end of the half is so key for momentum to keep that two goal lead.”

The Quakers started the second half hot, scoring a quick two to tie the game up at nine. The first came on the same setup as the shot Ierlan saved at the end of the first half.

The Penn four-goal run was not enough to take the lead, and the Red responded with five of the last six goals scored to close out the quarter. First, Blake found an open Piatelli, before scoring a goal of his own two-and-a-half minutes later.

Coyle, who finished with three assists and six points, found junior midfielder Hugh Kelleher at the midway point of the third quarter with space 12 yards out from the goal, who fired it top shelf. After Coyle was illegally body checked, the Red took advantage of a two-minute penalty opportunity, as Kirst beat the defense from behind the net and got a bouncer past goalkeeper Emmet Carroll.

Penn scored an unassisted goal to stop the Cornell streak, but the Red was able to tack on with a minute remaining in the quarter, as Coyle got a shot off through contact to put Cornell up by four. With 15 minutes to go, the Red led, 14-10.

The Quakers continued to have no answer for Kirst, who opened up the fourth with his sixth goal of the day. Penn responded with a score, but on the ensuing face-off, senior face-off specialist Angelo Petrakis found an open Kirst just outside the crease for an easy one hop shot. 

“We have so many great individuals… and this spring we’ve just been clicking on all cylinders,” Kirst said. “We have such great passers, such great dodgers, and when we’re all playing, all six of us, we’re successful.”

It was a dominant day for Petrakis at the x, as he finished with 11 wins on 15 attempts. Kirst’s seventh goal matched his career record.

Penn was able to score once more with just under six minutes remaining, but two late goals from Dalton and Coyle put the game out of reach. The Red came away with the win, 18-12.

The Red went 24 of 34 on face-offs overall, by far its best mark of the season. Cascadden finished 13 of 17.

“They were fantastic –– I think that unit has gotten so much better,” Buczek said. “The depth of that unit has really created the competitiveness in practice everyday, allowed them to compete day in and day out. That way when we play big games against big face-off units our guys are ready for that challenge.”

The Red remains at home next weekend to take on Dartmouth on Saturday, April 1. The game will be available on ESPN+.