Sports

Men’s lacrosse travels to Ithaca with playoff hopes on the line

Deflated Big Red offers Bruno avenue toward playoffs, though long road lies ahead

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, April 18, 2014

A year’s worth of preparation, dedication and perspiration culminates Friday when the men’s lacrosse team faces off against No. 12 Cornell in a decisive Ivy League contest. A loss in Ithaca to the Big Red knocks the Bears out of tournament contention, while a win keeps Bruno’s playoff aspirations alive.

The Bears (6-5, 1-3 Ivy) fell in overtime to Yale (7-3, 3-2) last weekend. Despite an overall winning percentage above .500, Bruno is a single loss away from being mathematically eliminated from competing in the conference tournament, due to its poor record against other Ivy teams.

“Everyone is obviously still upset about the loss since it was such a close game,” said Bailey Tills ’16 about the Yale game. “But now we’re just trying to stay focused on what we can control and trying to look forward to Cornell. Morale isn’t necessarily high, but we are still proud of what we’ve accomplished so far this season.”

While the Big Red (9-3, 3-1) currently head the Ancient Eight standings, the team has struggled as of late. Over its past three games, Cornell has fallen 10 spots in the national rankings, with losses to Harvard (7-5, 3-1), No. 4 Syracuse University (8-3, 2-3 ACC) and No. 11 Hofstra University (9-3, 3-0 CAA), who leapfrogged the Big Red in the rankings.

Despite its recent slide, Cornell is still the strongest team in the conference on paper. Three of the league’s top seven scorers play for the Big Red, including Dan Lintner, the conference’s leader with 38 goals. Lintner leads the next closest attacker by an eight-goal margin and will be the biggest threat for to the Bears’ defense. Connor Buczek and Matt Donovan round-out a frontline that scores nearly 14 goals per game.

“They’re still a dangerous team,” Tills said. “There’s no doubt they are going to come out fired up, especially because it’s their Senior Night. But we feel confident in our schemes and game plan, and we think we can win this game.”

Cornell’s high-octane offense is complemented by a solid defense that allows just 9.58 goals per game, the third lowest total in the Ivy League. The goalkeeper Christian Knight stops 53.6 percent of attempts on goal, also good for third best in the conference.

Against such a daunting opponent, Bruno will need to be firing on all cylinders both offensively and defensively. Dylan Molloy ’17, winner of three Ivy Rookie of the Week awards, hit the ground running in his first season of collegiate lacrosse. But after he scored hat tricks in three of his first four games, opponents began to key in on him, often marking him with their best defender. In conference play, the first-year has just two goals and has been shut out in three of four contests.

Molloy and Sam Hurster ’14, the team’s leading goal scorer with 21 goals this season, will need to break through the Big Red defense and put points on the board. Bruno’s midfield orchestrator Stephen Chmil ’14 has also struggled against conference opponents, posting just one assist and two goals against Ivy foes.

Tills cited “controlling the ball and limiting turnovers on the offensive end” as the two keys for a win on the team’s trip to Ithaca. Bruno has given the ball up 180 times this season, the second-highest number in the league. The Bears cannot afford to give the Big Red extra possessions in a game that will likely see Cornell jump out to an early lead in its Senior Night. Bruno will need to control the tempo of the game, and move the ball quickly and effectively in the attacking third to break down the Cornell back line.

Defensively, the Bears have been shaky at times, often forcing goalie Jack Kelly ’16 to bail them out. Fortunately for the squad, Kelly leads the league in both saves and save percentage and has consistently made game-saving stops. Bruno’s defenders will need to lock down Lintner and keep Cornell off the scoreboard for as long as possible, a feat Tills said he thinks is possible.

“I think our defense is going to do their job,” Tills said. “It’s going to be up to the offense to keep the ball in our sticks. If we can score 10 goals, we feel confident that we will win.”