Cornell vs. Duke

M&T Bank Stadium, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2

Lacrosse Final Four

May 26, 2007|By GARY LAMBRECHT

3 THINGS TO WATCH

No lack of offense

Cornell averages 14.14 goals per game, tops in Division I, and has five players with at least 30 points, led by Eric Pittard (32 goals, 29 assists) and David Mitchell (43, nine). Duke ranks third in scoring (12.8 goals), primarily because no one has the ability to dodge, shoot and pass like Matt Danowski (42 goals, 49 assists) and no one finishes as well as Zack Greer (63 goals).

Meanwhile, in goal ...

As high-powered as both offenses are, the senior goalies could have the final say. Cornell's Matt McMonagle and Duke's Dan Loftus combined for 28 saves in Cornell's 7-6 victory in March in Durham, N.C., and they each have been ranked among the top three in save percentage for much of the season. One of them probably will prove to be the difference.

A game of transition

Watch the game between the boxes. When the ball is on the ground, both teams can strike quickly in transition. Duke, led by short-stick midfielders Ed Douglas and Michael Ward and long-stick midfielder Ed O'Hara, has the most explosive fast break in the game.

Key matchups

Cornell senior defenseman Mitch Belisle (Severna Park) has been the Big Red's top cover guy all season, and he'll have the toughest assignment of his career today. Tracking the speedy, shifty, relentless Matt Danowski can resemble trying to contain Michael Jordan with a lacrosse stick, and he doesn't need to score a goal to hurt you. It will be interesting to see how quickly the Big Red slides to Belisle. On the flip side, Duke defenseman Casey Carroll will have his hands full with senior attackman David Mitchell, the slick creaseman from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Coaches

Cornell's Jeff Tambroni took over the program that Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala began to build in the late 1990s, and Tambroni has kept it moving forward. His record is 73-25 and his .745 winning percentage is second best among the nine men who have coached Cornell. After three losses in the quarterfinals, Tambroni has the Big Red in position to win it all. John Danowski won 192 games over 21 seasons at Hofstra before taking the Duke job last summer. He has been equal parts caretaker and tactician this season. Like Tambroni, Danowski has never coached in a final four.

When Cornell has the ball

The Big Red loves to move the ball around with precise passes that lead to easy scores inside. With guys like Mitchell and Eric Pittard roaming the crease area, who wouldn't employ that strategy? But Cornell also is not shy about shooting from unpredictable angles. Max Seibald and John Glynn are deadly from the outside. Don't be surprised to see them take shots from 15 to 17 yards away.

When Duke has the ball

With apologies to midfielders Ned Crotty (26 points) and Brad Ross (25) and attackman Max Quinzani (25), this is the Danowski-Greer show. Greer resembles Shaquille O'Neal around the basket. If he catches the ball down low in the paint, just count it. It all starts with Danowski's vision, dodging and superior passing ability. And the coach's son also can stick the ball into the net from ridiculous angles.

Bottom line

Cornell is not afraid of Duke, and the Big Red shouldn't be. After losing to the Blue Devils in the quarterfinals of the 2005 tournament, Cornell has beaten Duke in each of the past two regular seasons, including a 7-6 classic on March 20 in Durham, N.C. Cornell is built to win a high-scoring game and a defensive struggle. It is loaded with seniors who know how to win. It has more scoring threats than the Blue Devils. But in the here and now, with a chance to make a statement in front of a huge crowd and an ESPN audience, this very focused Duke team will find a way to outlast the Big Red when it counts. With Danowski, Greer and goalie Dan Loftus leading the charge, the Blue Devils will move on and meet Hopkins on Monday, in a rematch of the 2005 title game won by the Blue Jays.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.