Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Men's lacrosse will be the top seed in the Ivy Tournament if it wins its last two games.

April 20, 2023

PREVIEW: Men’s Lacrosse Looks to Clinch a Spot in the Ivy Tournament With Win Over Brown

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Coming off its most electrifying win of the season, No. 6 men’s lacrosse gets set for the final stretch of its regular season. With just two games left until the Ivy Tournament, every game is crucial to maintaining the resume of a top team in the nation. The first of the two games is this Saturday, April 22, when Cornell hits the road to take on Brown in Providence, Rhode Island.

The Red (9-2, 3-1 Ivy) is coming off a tight 11-10 win over No. 8 Army. Cornell had to weather a power outage and a late push by the Black Knights, scoring the winning goal with nine seconds remaining.

“Hard fought game from the first whistle to the last whistle,” said head coach Connor Buczek ’15. “[Army is] a great team and makes you earn everything you get, so I was proud of the toughness and the resiliency we showed throughout.”

The game was also notable for the variety of goal scorers for Cornell’s offense. Junior attacker CJ Kirst, who leads the nation with 49 goals, had zero against Army, but assisted on two. Senior attacker Michael Long led the offense with three goals, with contributions coming from eight players, including senior midfielder Aiden Blake. Blake scored two goals, the second being the game winner.

“I think it speaks volumes about the depth of this roster,” Buczek said. “It was nice to have a lot of other faces in the scoring column. A lot of guys scoring goals, a lot of guys finishing opportunities, and I think that’s a good sign for us as we head into May.”

The Red’s game against Army marks the end of the team’s nonconference schedule. Cornell finished 6-1 against a diverse slate of nonconference teams that featured three top ten matchups.

“There’s a lot of great lacrosse teams out there, and there’s a lot of teams that play very differently from one another,” Buczek said. “When you look at an Albany versus an Army, those are very different programs in how they execute. They’re both great at what they do and it’s very different, and throughout there you get tested different ways. So I thought it was great for us to see a variety of different teams and play some great competition and get pushed to our limits and even take some losses.”

Cornell now sets its sights on the Bears (5-6, 1-3 Ivy), which is coming off a road loss to Yale on Saturday, April 15. When these two teams met last year, Brown scored six goals in the first quarter and never looked back, beating the Red, 13-8.

“We’ve got to match their pace and intensity,” Buczek said. “They play hard, they play fast, they take advantage of broken plays. So for us it’s important that we’re ready for that intensity, we’re ready for that pace and that we’re able to continue to play at our tempo and not get pushed to go faster because of how they play.”

The Red will also have to contend with Connor Theriault, Brown’s goalkeeper. In last year’s contest, Theriault made 24 saves en route to a .750 save rate. 

“When you play a great goalie, you just don’t want to give him any [easy saves],” Buczek said. “It’s important that we locate our shots, first of all, but also we work for great ones. We don’t settle, we don’t give him any ones that get him going.”

The Bears have one of the better face-off units in the Ivy League, an area that has been up and down for the Red this year. Brown’s unit is led by Matthew Gunty, who has a 64 percent win rate.

“Possession is a huge piece of this game, and if you have to make stops before you can play offense, it challenges you,” Buczek said. “They are adept at facing off and they’ve got a great unit that starts transition right out of that face-off. So for us it’s going to be about getting to some balls, it’s about being tough on the ground…it’s really important that we get to a fast start, we get to some balls, but even when we don’t, that we compete for those ground balls and make sure to make it a 50/50 ball as much as possible.”

A win on Saturday will give Cornell four conference victories, securing the team a spot in the Ivy Tournament. The Red still controls its own destiny to win the regular season Ivy title outright and hold the number one seed in the tournament.

Cornell’s contest is set to start at noon at Stevenson-Pincince Field. It will be available on ESPN+.