Men’s Lacrosse falls to Virginia in NCAA QuarterfinalsMay 21, 2011 —
Ranked second in the country, the men’s Lacrosse team entered Saturday’s NCAA Quarterfinal match versus Virginia (no. 7) riding an eleven game win streak. They began the game as expected. The defense, which had been stellar in the previous few games, kept Virginia subdued as Cornell earned a 4-1 lead. Besides a few playoff jitters, all looked well on the field for the Big Red.
Then the momentum shifted, and everything that made Cornell great this season disappeared. The defense that forced Hartford to go 41 minutes and 55 seconds without scoring last week let in nine straight UVA goals. Steele Stanwick, a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, led the Cavaliers’ offense with 3 goals and four assists. It would be 22 minutes and 33 seconds before Cornell could score again, and they never fully recovered, falling to the Cavaliers 13-9.
Cornell Head Coach Ben DeLuca insisted that the responsibility for this loss fell “squarely” on his shoulders. “I don’t think I did a very good job of preparing our team for this contest,” he said, promising himself and his players that he would pick this game footage apart so that they could come back stronger next year.
“They came out and they executed early and often, and they put us on our heels,” he said of UVA’s first half offensive run. “We struggled to execute our game plan.”
“They did a great job capitalizing on the mistakes we made,” DeLuca said. Cornell had 15 turnovers in the match that proved costly at several times, as they led to Cavalier goals and kept the defense working without a break. “That first 30 minutes was about as bad lacrosse as we’ve played all season long.”
“It all started off the ground. I think our efforts off the ground were far behind Virginia’s, and credit to them for out hustling us there,” he said. Virginia picked up 33 ground balls, only six more than Cornell, but they came at crucial times.
Goaltender AJ Fiore attributed the defensive struggles to bad communication and UVA’s time of possession. “They definitely did a great job of possessing the ball, and that was the biggest thing,” he said. Virginia held the ball for most of the second quarter, which “wore them down”.
The defense did come together in the second half, but it seemed to be too late. While they only allowed three more goals in the final two quarters, Cornell’s offense couldn’t take advantage of enough opportunities to even the score. Adam Ghitelman, UVA’s goaltender, had 13 saves as he played all 60 minutes. Cornell co-captain, Ivy League Player of the Year, and Tewaarton Trophy finalist, Rob Pannell, had three goals in the offensive effort, but zero assists. Pannell is a playmaker whose ability to feed the ball is widely known around the lacrosse community. With little time to actually hold the ball because of UVA’s offensive dominance, Pannell struggled to set up plays for his unit. Thanks to what may be one of UVA’s best defensive performances of the season, the Big Red couldn’t battle their way back.
The one area of the Cornell Lacrosse program DeLuca praised after the game was the leadership of the senior class. Seven seniors will graduate next weekend, including co-captain Jack Dudley and standout defenseman Max Feely. “We ask these guys to leave this place, Cornell Lacrosse, better than they found it, and I think our seniors certainly did that,” DeLuca said.
Cornell ends their season at 14-3, going undefeated in the Ivy League and in all contests at Shoellkopf Field in Ithaca.