A momentum-shifting three goal run in the second quarter and strong close defense led No. 12 Cornell (4-2, 1-0 Ivy) to a 10-8 victory over No. 16 Yale men’s lacrosse (4-1, 0-1) at Reese Stadium on Saturday.
After Big Red attackman Steve Mock notched his first of a game-high four goals with 4:26 to go in the first half, the visitors never looked back and led the Bulldogs for the duration of the game.
While it improved on last year’s 18-7 loss to Cornell in Ithaca, Yale could not capitalize on advantages in shots on goal and face-offs and increased its losing streak against the Big Red to 12 games.
“Cornell plays a very high pace game and as a result can be very aggressive on the defensive end,” attackman Brian Douglass ’11 said. “We were on an upswing offensively, we just ran out of time.”
The Bulldogs last victory against the Big Red came in 1999 with a 7-6 win at the formerly titled “soccer-lacrosse” stadium, featuring 18 saves by captain goalie and All-American honorable mention Joe Pilch ’99.
Entering Saturday’s game with the best save percentage in D-1, John Falcone ’11 was well-prepared for the widely-heralded Cornell attack of Mock, Rob Pannell and David Lau, who have combiend for 24 of the Big Red’s 36 goal this season.
But inconsistent defensive slides left Cornell’s attackmen wide-open on the crease two-times too many, while Falcone’s hard-earned 10 saves and clean clears failed to stimulate an offense that was unable to get settled from behind the Big Red goal.
The game began as a defensive duel, with Yale net-minder Falcone turning away four of the first five shots he faced. Cornell broke open the scoring on a goal by Keith Thompson, 4:30 into the period.
With Fiore frustrating Yale’s attackmen from point blank, midfielder Greg Mahony ’12 approached from just inside the restraining line, dodged his defender with a quick step and fired home a high bouncer that beat the goalie stick side to tie the game at 1-1 with 5:40 left in the first.
“In any game, we dodge with the players that have the best matchups,” Mahony said. “Matt [Gibson ’12] and Brian [Douglass] drew so much attention and so many quick slides that it opened up the dodges from up top, and so that’s where we attacked.”
The second period followed much of the same formula, featuring sparse scoring and Yale leading by a goal twice — first on a man-up score by Mahony and second on a hard outside shot by Brandon Mangan ’14.
But Cornell took command of the back-and-forth affair with three goals within a minute and a half long period. Lau kicked off the run with a pinpoint feed to Mock, who beat Falcone with a quick shot on the crease.
An illegal hit by midfielder Colin Still ’12 gave the Big Red a man-up opportunity, which they capitalized on 30 seconds into the penalty. Good ball movement by the visitors created a wide open shot for Lau, who faked high and shot low to score from point blank.
With Cornell defensemen Max Feely and Jason Noble dominating Yale’s typically high-scoring combination of Douglass and Gibson, the Elis struggled to fight back. Meanwhile, the Big Red demonstrated great patience on offense and wore down the Yale defense.
An aggressive two-man slide on Pannell after he beat Peter Johnson ’13 to the goal-line backfired when the attackman found a cutting Jack Dudley, who scored to lead the Big Red into the locker room with a 6-3 advantage.
“We had a few sliding and communication breakdowns that hurt us throughout the game,” Johnson said. “Pannell is definitely the best player I’ve ever covered. He’s a very slick player.”
The Bulldogs fought back hard in the third quarter, but Cornell had an answer to each Yale score. With Yale’s attack still largely ineffective aside from a nice goal-scoring combination from Douglass to attackman Deron Dempster ’13, the home team’s defense sparked several offensive opportunities in transition.
Yale’s last goal of the quarter came after Mahony scooped up a loose ball caused by a beautiful poke check by captain and long stick midfielder Pat Coleman ’11. Mahony sprinted down the field before ripping it past Cornell’s goalie Andrew West — who replaced Fiore for the period. But goals by Cornell’s Steve Mock at the end of the third and a minute into the fourth seemed to put the game out of reach, with the Big Red leading 10-6.
“We will breakdown the film and see where we made our mistakes defensively,” Falcone said. “But overall I thought the game plan was effective and the effort was there.”
Strong late defense by the Bulldogs and saves by Falcone kept the home team in the game. After regaining focus on offense after a time out, Yale charged back with Mangan’s second goal of the game to cut the deficit to 10-7 with 7:19 left to play. Fewer than two minutes later, Still brought the Bulldogs within two on his sixth goal of the season.
After Falcone stuffed Lau on the doorstep with just under four minutes left, Yale’s defensive midfield went storming the other way. Yet an errant pass by Coleman abruptly stopped the Bulldogs offensive opportunity. Following the play, a missed call on a late hit by Cornell left the Yale coaches frustrated, and the visitors were able to take vital time off of the clock.
“Turnovers are a part of the game,” Mahony said. “We just need to make a couple more smart plays and play more as a team.”
Yale’s defense continued to make opportunities for the attack, but shots didn’t fall and sloppy play in isolation increased the Bulldogs’ turnover count to 19 for the game. A questionable cross-checking call on Matt Miller ’12 with 48 seconds to play all but ended Yale’s hope for a comeback, as the Elis, once again, started off conference play with a loss.
“Obviously, it’s a tough loss, but we’re already anxious to get back to practice and prepare for Princeton next Saturday,” Falcone said. “A tough loss like this, though, provides ammunition for the rest of the season and pushes everyone to work harder and get better.”
The Bulldogs head to New Jersey on Saturday, March 26 where they’ll face No. 11 Princeton. The Tigers (1-4, 0-1) lost to No. 18 Penn (4-2, 1-0) for the first time since 1989 in the teams’ Ivy opener on Saturday.