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Clutch and Dramatic Plays Highlight Men’s Lacrosse Games between Cornell and Syracuse

Posted on April 20, 2010 by Chris Kent

Regardless if you are a Syracuse or a Cornell men’s lacrosse fan, this was not intended to happen again. It couldn’t of. Or could it?

Syracuse senior Chris Daniello manuevers around two Cornell defenders to score the game-winning goal just before the final buzzer.

Syracuse senior Chris Daniello maneuvers around two Cornell defenders to score the game-winning goal just before the final buzzer (Stephen D. Cannerelli).

After the two schools played a thrilling overtime game to decide the 2009 national championship last Memorial Day at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, it was like déjà vu all over again. This time in the annual regular season battle that rotates between the home fields of the two upstate New York rivals. Like it was for all the marbles in the title game last year, it was another one-goal thriller with the exception being that a national title was not at stake and no overtime was needed.

Barely.

Orange senior attack Chris Daniello scooped up a ground ball off a save by Big Red freshman goalie A.J. Fiore, a local product of Ithaca High School, just seconds after a point blank shot by Syracuse senior attack Cody Jamieson was saved by Fiore. After snaring the ball parallel to the Cornell cage, Daniello fired a shot that just beat the final buzzer to give Syracuse another thrilling win over the Big Red, 8-7, on Tuesday April 13 at Schoellkopf Field in Ithaca, NY.

The performance was eerily similar to last May’s title game as Cornell held a late multiple goal lead only to see it slip away in the final minutes. In the title game, the Big Red held a 9-6 edge only to see Syracuse win 10-9 in overtime in a comeback for the ages that rivaled that of the Orange basketball teams’ 127-117 six-overtime win over Connecticut in the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals earlier that year from March 12-13. In that memorable basketball game, Syracuse never lead in the overtimes until the sixth one which marked its’ first lead since two minutes remained in regulation.

Chris Daniello leaps in joy after his game-winning goal against Cornell.

Chris Daniello leaps in joy after his game-winning goal against Cornell (Stephen D. Cannerelli).

Back on the lacrosse turf last week, Cornell had a 7-5 edge with 9:11 left to play only to see the Orange end the game on a 3-0 surge. Yet did this really happen? It sure did. Even more impressive for both schools is the fact that they played another thriller after each team graduated pivotal players following last year’s title game.

For the Big Red it was the likes of 2009 Tewaaraton Trophy winner Max Seibald, the aggressive midfielder who lead the Big Red with 120 shots last year. Seibald was also awarded the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s (USILA) Lt. Raymond J. Enners Award for the outstanding Division I Player of the Year and received the USILA Lt. Donald MacLaughlin Jr. Award, for the Outstanding Midfielder of the Year. Seibald’s 38 points on 28 goals and 10 assists in 2009 were third best on the team as he played in all 17 games helping Cornell finish 13-4.

An all-around person as well, Seibald was honored with the Lowes Senior CLASS Award which has become the nations’ premier accolade for college seniors. The CLASS acronym, which stands for Celebrating Loyalty and

Cornell's Max Seibald, the 2009 Tewaaraton Trophy Winner, looks to pass upfield during the title game.

Cornell's Max Seibald, the 2009 Tewaaraton Trophy Winner, looks to pass upfield during the 2009 title game.

Achievement through Staying in School, recognizes those who define a complete student-athlete through excellence in the classroom, in character, through community service, and in their athletic performance on the field. One of the greatest lacrosse players in school history, Seibald was also named a first-team All-American by the USILA for the third straight year in 2009 and capped his career by becoming only the third Big Red player to be named an All-American four straight years including his second-team selection as a freshman.

These kinds of accolades and statistics lost by the graduation of one player and Cornell still plays with the perennial powers of lacrosse step for step. Kind of hard to imagine even though the Big Red has won three national championships and has won or shared the Ivy League Championship each of the last seven years. Even moreso when you look at who else graduated with Seibald.

Defender Matt Moyer, who had 33 ground balls last year, was a fixture on defense and joined Seibald as a first team All American. Moyer routinely defended the opponent’s top offensive threat. Midfielder John Glynn was a second-team selection, had a team best 105 ground balls, and was fourth on the team with 33 points (23, 10). This duo was productive all four years as Moyer was a two-time All-Ivy selection while Glynn received the honor three times.

Too much for Cornell to overcome? Not sure? Want more player losses?

Midfielder Rocco Romero and attack Chris Finn played in all 17 games a year ago and tied for fifth on the team with identical numbers of 28 points (17, 11). Romero and Finn also had 15 and 26 ground balls respectively. The duo each logged 53 shots on the season.

So what about defense for the Big Red? There is another key loss there as well. Goalie Jake Myers played in 13 games and had a 7-3 record. His goals against average was 8.20 which was offset by the Big Red’s opponents, who gave up an average of 12.16 goals a game. Myers also made 74 saves on the season.

Senior Matt Moyer was a key player for Cornell during the 2009 season.

Senior Matt Moyer was a key player for Cornell during the 2009 season.

So what about Syracuse? The 11-time NCAA Champions never seem to fall to far back of the pack. Yet the Orange still graduated a core of its’ talent off last year’s national championship team and many went pro.

Kenny Nims, who scored the game-tying goal with four seconds left in regulation of last year’s title game to force overtime, was the No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Lacrosse Draft as he went to the Chicago Machine.

Three other Syracuse players were selected in the top nine of the draft. Defenseman Sid Smith (sixth overall to Toronto), midfielder Dan Hardy (eighth to Denver), and midfielder Matt Abbott (ninth to Washington) all were selected by pro teams.

Yet the Orange still proved that they can not only win but do so dramatically against their annual rivals. That spells leadership and a calm, coolness, and collectiveness like that of a cucumber. Nims was a first-team All-American and was second in the nation as a senior with 4.11 points per game. A starter in all 18 games, Nims lead Syracuse with 74 points on 32 goals and 42 assists while scoring three game-winning goals.

An aggressive defender, Smith started all 18 games for the Orange in 2009 when he was a second-team All-American. He led an Orange defense that ranked fourth nationally in goals against average (7.39). He also had 39 ground balls on the season.

Matt Abbott attempts to knock the ball away from Cornell's Roy Lang in the 2009 title game.

Matt Abbott attempts to knock the ball away from Cornell's Roy Lang in the 2009 title game.

Abbott assisted Nims’ goal with the pass off a double team that forced overtime in the title game last year and was a 2009 Tewaaraton Trophy finalist. Add in his 23 points (12, 11) and he was no small loss. Both Abbott and Nims were first-team All Americans by the USILA.

Hardy was the leading midfield scorer for the Orange in 2009 finishing with 43 points on 25 goals and 18 assists. Hardy also logged 83 shots while starting all 18 games and scoring three game-winning goals. He finished his career with 136 points on 83 goals and 53 assists.

Midfielder Pat Perritt started all 18 games for Syracuse while tallying 32 points (18, 14). He also had 78 shots. Furthermore, he had one game-winning goal.

So with so many vital players lost to graduation from each side, how did this game produce the theatrics like it did? I mean Cornell University should of given away free popcorn and soda and turned Schoellkopf Field into the world’s biggest movie theater. This one was filled with that kind of drama and spectacle not to mention that it was a night game, the perfect time for movies.

The Big Red had a 3-2 lead at the half. After the teams split four goals in the third quarter, Cornell built on its’ 5-4 lead by scoring two of the next three goals to take a 7-5 lead. The Big Red wouldn’t score again.

A look at the final statistics, and it is amazing how this game came down to the final horn. The Orange doubled Cornell in shots (40-20), had a 45-25 edge in ground balls, and won 12 of the 18 faceoffs. What kept the game close was a spectacular performance by Big Red freshman goalkeeper A.J. Fiore who made a career high 20 saves.

While the clutchest of plays was made in the final seconds, it was anyone’s game from start to finish.

Yet, regardless of the outcome, Cornell and Syracuse have proven to be two of the premier lacrosse programs in the country over the last several years. Dating back to 2006, one of the two schools has advanced to the Final Four each year with both doing so last year as they battled for the title.

The Orange has reached the Final Four three of the last four years including the last two which they have capped off with national championships. Syracuse’s 2009 victory marked the second time in school history that they have repeated as national champions. The other repeat came by the 1989 and 1990 teams which was part of three straight titles from 1988 to 1990.

Syracuse players gather together in celebration of their win over Cornell in the 2009 National Championship game.

Syracuse players gather together to celebrate their win over Cornell in the 2009 National Championship Game.

While the Orange did not receive an NCAA bid in 2007, the Big Red did and reached its’ first Final Four appearance since 1988 with a 12-11 overtime win over Albany. Cornell advanced to the national semifinals at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md. where it came up short in a 12-11 loss to Duke. After losing its’ first round NCAA game in 2008, the Big Red came back strong in 2009, going all the way to the title game before suffering the  heartbreaking overtime loss to Syracuse.

The Big Red has also had their run of success in lacrosse. Perhaps the most recognized sport at Cornell over the decades besides men’s ice hockey, the lacrosse program has had its’ golden era like the Orange, just over a shorter time. Go back to the 1970’s and head coach Richie Moran was at the controls of one of the nation’s elite lacrosse programs. When Moran retired, Cornell went through a small dry spell until the first decade of this current century, when it returned to the national spotlight.

Moran coached from 1969 to 1997 compiling a 257-121 overall record and a 124-50 mark in the Ivy League. He led the Big Red to three national championships in the 1970’s, winning the NCAA’s inaugural title in 1971 and later winning back-to-back national championships in 1976 and 1977. Moran also guided Cornell to NCAA runner-up finishes in 1978, ’87, and ’88.

Moran’s teams competed in the NCAA Tournament 14 times and won 15 Ivy League Championships with 11 undefeated Ivy seasons. Three of his teams went undefeated overall while three others suffered only one loss.

Current Cornell head coach Jeff Tambroni is in his 10th season and has brought Big Red lacrosse back into the national spotlight. Cornell is among the nations’ elite. Despite last week’s loss to Syracuse, the Big Red knows they can play with them and beat them. In 2007 Cornell beat the Orange 16-15 in their house, the Carrier Dome, along their way to the national semifinals. Syracuse didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament that year.

For the Orange, long-time head coach Roy Simmons Jr. coached Syracuse from 1971 through 1998. During his 28 seasons at the helm, he guided the Orange to 19 NCAA Tournaments, 16 straight Final Fours, and six NCAA national championships (1983, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, and 1995). He finished with an overall record of 290-96, good for a .751 winning percentage.

Current Syracuse head coach John Desko has done a brilliant job since replacing Simmons. Desko has led the Orange to five national championships including the last two, his first repeat performance. Named the USILA Division I Coach of the Year in 2008, Desko also was named the head coach of the 2006 U.S National Team that competed in the ILF World Championship.

Syracuse has gotten the better of the Big Red recently and has won 11 national championships compared to three for Cornell. However the two programs are close in today’s sport. They play nearly equal with each other and that has been proven in their two most recent meetings.

The last showing was last week. Like last years’ national championship game, it was thrilling and dramatic. It just goes to show what two teams can do after they lose so many talented and productive players to graduation.

It would be wise for lacrosse fans across the land to watch these two teams closely the rest of this season. As we close out the regular season, the 2010 NCAA lacrosse playoffs are upon us. Another mighty clash between the Big Red and the Orange could be in store sometime in May. Stay tuned.

Credits: Athletic web sites of Cornell and Syracuse Universities for current season information. Archive links off these web sites for historical files on rosters, schedules, statistics, and all-time results.


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