Timmy Xi/Sun Staff Photographer

Men's lacrosse celebrates a goal against Ohio State at Schoellkopf Field on Mar. 2, 2024. Cornell won 15-11.

March 4, 2024

Second-Half Domination Sails No. 10 Men’s Lacrosse Over No. 20 Ohio State

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As clouds loomed over Schoellkopf Field on Saturday afternoon, the rain wasn’t the only thing pouring –– it was No. 10 men’s lacrosse pouring on the offense, particularly in the third quarter, en route to a 15-11 victory over a feisty No. 20 Ohio State.

“[I’m] proud of our guys,” said head coach Connor Buczek ’15. “We’ve been preaching [the importance of] playing 60 minutes and finishing games and today was a great opportunity. ”

After a tight first half, Cornell outscored the Buckeyes 8-4 in the second half to seal the win.

“[Ohio State’s] a really good ballclub and they pressed us and made us make plays, but down the stretch, we picked up some tough ground balls, we handled situations well and we closed out the game,” Buczek said. “So, it feels really good to come out on top.”

The victory was capped by stellar performances by senior attackman CJ Kirst and fifth-year attackman Michael Long. Kirst posted a touchdown –– seven goals –– and an assist for eight points while Long assembled a hat trick and a seven-point effort to cement the win.

Saturday’s win marks Cornell’s first victory over a ranked team this season.

“What a difference a week makes,” Buczek said, referring to its tightly-contested loss to then-No. 7 Denver.

Cornell (3-1, 0-0 Ivy) opened up the game’s scoring when fifth-year midfielder Aiden Blake broke the ice after nearly five scoreless minutes. The Buckeyes retaliated with a pair of scores before Kirst tallied his first goal of the contest. The goal also marked his first of six unassisted scores on Saturday.

“[Kirst’s] the best player in the country, no doubt,” Long said.

Ohio State (4-2, 0-0 Big 10) fired back with two more goals late, but not before senior midfielder Andrew Dalton cut into the deficit with 59 seconds left in the quarter. Cornell trailed the Buckeyes 4-3 after 15 minutes. 

The Buckeyes retook its two-goal lead nearly two minutes into the second quarter, but the Red roared back with scores from two familiar faces –– Kirst and Long. 

The tandem, both of whom serve as captains of the 2024 squad, have proven to be lethal on the field. Yet, it’s off the field where their presence becomes invaluable.

“You see the score sheet, but what people don’t see is what this kid [Kirst] does for our team, leadership-wise,” Long said. “Not many people outside these doors can see that. I’m happy to be able to see it every day.”

Late in the half, Ohio State tallied two more goals, giving it a 7-5 lead with under four minutes remaining. However, a courageous run by Cornell and a lengthy stay in the offensive half led to it equalizing the score.

First, Kirst completed his hat trick to get Cornell within one. Then, with just 10 seconds left in the half, junior attackman Danny Caddigan secured the tying goal on a man-up opportunity. 

The score was 7-7 as the teams entered their locker rooms for halftime.

“[It was] massive,” Buczek said in regard to the late second-half run. “You’ve got to keep playing team lacrosse, relying on the fundamentals, and we did just that and we clawed our way back in before half.”

But the tied score would not last.

In the early stages of its season, Cornell has dominated in the third quarter. Saturday was no exception. Outscoring the Buckeyes 5-2, the Red widened its overall third-quarter scoring margin to an impressive 21-15.

“[Our third quarter supremacy] started in the first game [against Lehigh]. We got outscored 4-0 to start the third,” Buczek said. “So, from there, it’s become kind of a point of emphasis for us –– coming out of halftime and setting the tone for the second half is the type of team we have to be.”

Picking up right where he left off, Kirst notched his third consecutive goal to give Cornell its first lead since being up 1-0. Ohio State then knotted the score, but Cornell roared back with three goals of its own.

Two of those three came from Long, the first being an unreal shot after emerging from behind the net. Freshman attackman Willem Firth added a goal of his own after Long’s onslaught, extending his season-opening goal streak to four games –– tallying 10 over that stretch.

“We’re trying to keep guys going. We’re as deep as we’ve ever been this year,” Long said, referring to the team’s offensive threats. “We’re just trying to make sure we’ve got everyone on board, everyone pulling on the rope.”

Ohio State mustered a goal to make it an 11-9 game, preceding a faceoff win by Cornell that gave the Red possession with more time on the shot clock than on the scoreboard.

After appearing to receive a personal warning from the official, Kirst took matters into his own hands. Kirst juked out a pair of Buckeye defenders before tucking a shot home, giving Cornell a 12-9 lead with six seconds left in the quarter.

A resounding fourth-quarter defensive effort solidified the victory for the Red, anchored by two goals by Kirst and a lethal low score from senior midfielder Hugh Kelleher. Ohio State managed a pair of goals in the final quarter, but it wasn’t enough. Cornell emerged with a hard-fought 15-11 win.

As an Ohio native, the victory was a bit sweeter for Buczek.

“Being an Ohio guy, it’s always good to get a win against them,” Buczek said. “[Ohio State is] obviously a program and a place that I have a lot of respect for, but [I’m] glad that we came out on top today.”

The game began the first of six consecutive matchups for the Red against ranked opponents. After dropping its first ranked matchup against Denver, Cornell will look to redeem itself on this difficult –– yet exciting –– stretch of play.

“I think our theme these next couple of days is [that] it’s day by day. It’s all you can do in lacrosse these days,” Buczek said. “Everyone’s so damn good. You can’t take a day off, whether it’s practice or a game. All we’re looking at is Penn State this weekend.”

Cornell will hit the road for two straight weeks with the first game set for Saturday, March 9 against No. 12 Penn State. The opening faceoff is slated for Noon.