Losses don't prevent Cornell from return to Final Four

Big Red overcomes graduation

label doesn't bother Notre Dame

May 24, 2010|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

New faces, same place for the Cornell men's lacrosse team.

Despite graduating a senior class of 15 from the squad that fell to Syracuse in the national championship game, the Big Red returned to a familiar setting, reaching the Final Four for the third time in the last four seasons.

No. 7 seed Cornell, which thumped Army, 14-5, in a NCAA Tournament quarterfinal on Sunday, will meet unseeded Notre Dame (9-6) on Saturday at 4 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. That the Big Red reached this stage is shocking to ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich.

"To me, that's the biggest surprise of the Final Four," said Kessenich, a former All-American goalkeeper who helped Johns Hopkins capture the 1987 national title. "They lost a really great senior class last year in Tewaaraton winner Max Seibald, John Glynn, Rocco Romero, Matt Moyer who was a great defender. It's just amazing that they could play at a strong level during the regular season, but then over the last couple of weeks just finding ways to win."

Cornell (12-5) bid farewell to six starters in the entire starting midfield of Seibald (28 goals and 10 assists), Glynn (23, 10) and Romero (17, 11), Moyer (33 groundballs), attackman Chris Finn (17, 11) and goalkeeper Jake Myers (8.20 goals-against average and .503 save percentage).

Those losses convinced many to conclude that the Big Red would be unable to return to championship weekend. Not surprisingly, the players disagreed.

"We knew we could be back there," said sophomore attackman Rob Pannell, who leads all Division I players in points per game (4.6). "I know our captains certainly set the goal of going back to the Final Four. So they certainly believed in the team around them, thinking that we could back there. I think right now, we just have to focus on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish next week. … But I think right now, with this team coming together at the right time, the sky's the limit."

After losing to Princeton in the Ivy League Tournament final, Cornell outlasted Loyola, 11-10, in triple overtime in the first round before routing the Black Knights on Sunday. The Big Red has thrived despite starting three freshmen in goalie A.J. Fiore and close defensemen Jason Noble and Mike Bronzino and a midfield line that has quietly contributed.

"They're so well-coached by Jeff Tambroni and his staff," Kessenich said. "They do a lot of the little things well. It's unbelievable what they've done with midfielders who – quite honestly – aren't elite. They don't have anyone who jumps off the page at the midfield position, but I love their attack with Rob Pannell and [senior] Ryan Hurley, and they have some young defenders who are playing really well now, and they have a tough face-off guy in [senior] Austin Boykin."

Labels don't bother Notre Dame

After back-to-back victories in the NCAA Tournament, one might think that Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan is getting a little tired of hearing the word "upset" attached to his team's wins.

For his part, Corrigan didn't try to duck the Fighting Irish's triumphs over No. 6 seed Princeton in the first round and No. 3 seed Maryland in the quarterfinals.

"Look, we were 7-6 in the regular season," Corrigan said Sunday. "It is what it is. Certainly, they were the favorites, and we understand that. As long as we hear win, I don't care what the prefix is."

"It's a big win," Kessenich said of Notre Dame's first trip to the Final Four since 2001. "They've been to championship weekend before, but getting to championship weekend these days means an awful lot. So it's a win that puts them back on the national stage after being off of it for almost a decade."

Ghitelman powers Virginia

For all of the attention paid to the offense, junior goalkeeper Adam Ghitelman was instrumental in top-seeded Virginia's 10-9 victory over No. 8 seed Stony Brook on Sunday.

Ghitelman has registered double-digit saves in 11 of the Cavaliers' 17 contests, and his 13-save performance against the Seawolves was his seventh in a row.

"I've built up a lot of experience in my career," said Ghitelman, who is 38-5 as a starter. "I just try to stay calm out there and keep it 0-0 in my mind at all times. … It was a tough game, and I'm glad we were able to hold it down in the end."

Ghitelman will have to play just as well against No. 5 seed Duke (14-4) on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. if Virginia (16-1) hopes to reach its first national title game since 2006. Coach Dom Starsia sounded confident that Ghitelman will continue his ways.

"Clearly, as we move forward in this season, you need your goalie to have big moments and I think Adam was one of the bright spots for us today," Starsia said. "There were times with Stony Brook, I'm sure they thought they had it, and Adam would get a big stop for us, and we'd get an opportunity going the other way."

Army in no mood to reminisce

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