Updated 9:15 p.m.
Senior co-captain Ryan Hurley became the second-leading scorer in Red history as he notched four goals to lead the men’s lacrosse team past Army, 14-5, in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals today in Stony Brook, N.Y. Unlike in previous games this season, the team was able to play its best for all 60 minutes of regulation, and avoided any Army threats by maintaining a lead throughout both halves.
“We definitely came in knowing that Army was on a roll. … They were definitely a dangerous team and we knew all week at practice that we needed to compete the way we can, show the heart that we know we have in us and we definitely showed that today. We wanted it more,” said freshman goalie A.J. Fiore.
The first quarter opened up like most games Cornell has played in 2010: the Red got on the board early and maintained its lead. Cornell got its first goal from junior midfielder David Lau less than four minutes into the game. Subsequently, Hurley tallied two goals while freshman attackman Steve Mock added one –– all without any interruption from the Knights. Army finally got on the board when leading scorer and junior attackman Jeremy Boltus shot the ball past Fiore with just over two minutes left in the quarter. However, this was all the Knights would manage, as they missed further opportunities to cut into the Red’s lead and the quarter came to a close with Cornell on top, 4-1.
The second quarter progressed in a similar fashion. Despite two penalties to Cornell, Army was initially unable to get into the Red’s zone and score on Fiore’s cage. The goal count for Cornell was up to six before the Knights managed another one, but even after this the Red was quick to respond. Without assist, junior defenseman (and hero of the first round) Max Feely scored his second career goal, bringing the game to 7-2. A third penalty to Cornell, though, enabled the Knights to generate a man-up goal with approximately four minutes left to the half before Mock ended the quarter with a hat trick. The scoreboard read 8-3 during the intermission, and both teams went into the locker room presumably thinking about Cornell’s previous inability to maintain a lead in the second fame.
Unlike in its previous two matchups, however, Cornell was able to pilot the remaining duration of the game, as the Knights’ closest run was when they were down by four after their second man-up goal of the game. Then, with only 5:52 left in the third quarter, sophomore attackman Rob Pannell –– the “best attackman in the country” according to head Army coach Joe Alberici –– began to play a prominent role. He scored back-to-back goals within two minutes of each other to end the third at 11-4 in favor of the Red.
Pannell’s second goal was scored following a spectacular play by Fiore, who managed to get the ball out of a possession struggle and shoot it across to the middle of the turf to senior co-captain Pierce Derkac, who tallied the assist.
“To come out –– especially in the start of the third quarter and get those goals early –– we really felt pretty good, and our defense did a great job of locking down their offensive players, and holding them to ... five goals is a great accomplishment for a dangerous team like Army, so I’m proud of the way our guys played, happy with the result,” Hurley said.
Fiore was pulled from goal with less than half of the fourth quarter remaining in order to give some playing time to junior Mat Martinez, and Army’s Tyler Seymour earned his second point of the day as he scored the final goal of the game. Regulation concluded in Cornell’s favor, 14-5, as the Red booked its third Final Four appearance in four years. The seventh-seeded team will play Notre Dame on Saturday in Baltimore, Md.
The final score of 14-5 was a testament to both the training the Red put into the week leading up to today’s matchup, as well as Army’s inability to play as patiently as Cornell. The Knights were sloppy and lax (no pun intended) during plays where they shouldn’t have been, and were generally unable to prevent the Red from coming close to their net. Although the Red did fall slightly short on the face-offs, winning only 10 of 23, the team outshot the Knights, picked up more ground balls, and cleared the ball from its territory more than the Army team could.
The Red also had contributions from up and down its lineup, most notably from its freshmen. Cornell starts the most freshmen of any of the other NCAA tournament competitors due to the graduation of 16 players from its roster last season; however, the new players have done a good job of filling the void.
“You come into this game, playing a team like Army that knocks out the No. 2 team in the tournament and you don’t really see any freshmen out there; they’re just experienced players on our team. They can look back at overtime games we’ve played before and Ivy League tournament games, our previous playoff game and everybody just played with the heart of a veteran,” Hurley said.
An example of one such player is freshman defenseman Mike Bronzino, who was all over the field today and scored his first career goal.
“I give a lot of credit to [senior co-captains Hurley and Derkac] and the way they rallied this team and came out here and played from start to finish, which has been troublesome for us over the last couple of weeks –– coming out of the gates in the second half –– so I think all in all we’re very happy to be moving on, and hope to take advantage of our opportunity and trip to the Final Four,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni.