Behind four goals by David Mitchell and five assists from Eric Pittard, the Cornell Big Red scrapped out an overtime win against the Albany Great Danes, 12-11. The game’s frantic pace and exciting swings kept the audience captivated throughout. Today’s game helped silence the naysayer quipping about strength of schedule and who has beaten who. Not only are Cornell and Albany two of the best programs in the country, but they're also two of the most enjoyable to watch.
Albany busted out of the gate quickly, rattling off three straight goals by middie John Alpizar, and attackmen Merrick Thompson (off a Steve Ammann assist) and Corey Small respectfully. Albany seemed eager and hungry. Cornell appeared tight throughout most of the first half, which they acknowledge in the post game press conference.
Despite some anxious play, the Big Red were able to reel off three straight goals of their own. Middie John Glynn found attackman Henry Bartlett for the tally. Then David Mitchell got the crowd excited with a garbage goal. Mitchell snagged a loose ball rebound from the front of the cage, and having little time and room, flung it over his shoulder left-handed. The run was capped with a Man-Up goal by stud middie Max Seibald. Rotating the ball around the horn, attackman Eric Pittard found Seibald on the wing, who dropped his stick and scored sidearm. The assist was Pittard’s first of what would be five on the day.
With the score now tied at three, the pace of the game had been set. Tit-for-tat scoring and small momentum swings punctuated a game full of transition, loose balls, quick scoring chances, gutsy plays, high drama, and perhaps most importantly, fun. This was the run and gun style Up-State lacrosse usually plays, only this time around nobody was wearing orange.
“That’s the way the game’s meant to be played,” Albany head coach Scott Marr said after the game, “up and down the field…You saw one hell of a game.”
Though some might have seen Albany playing the role of big underdog in this game, Marr saw things more evenhandedly.
“if you look at Cornell and Albany…I don’t think you’ll see two teams more similar,” Marr said, highlighting both teams’ propensity to push the ball, take chances, and run. All week at practice Marr told his players, “Hey, we’re playing our twin.”
Tambroni concurred, speaking highly of Albany after the game and saying that his players were ready and expected to face a very good team. Cornell went to Albany last weekend to sit and watch their game against Loyola, and Tambroni was impressed.
Alpizar grabbed the lead back for Albany. Small drove at the cage, spun in traffic, and found Alpizar standing alone. With no slide coming, Alpizar was able to set his feet and unload.
Alpizar got his name in another column on the state sheet assisting the next goal by Eric Wolfe. But again Cornell rallied to tie. A broken play let Cornell grab the ball and push down the field. The surge ended with Pittard finding Mitchell on the doorstep for the goal. About four minutes later, Seibald works like he is setting up a dodge from the wing. As the whole Albany defense prepared for the dodge and eventual slides, Pittard was able to creep around to the backside of the crease. Seibald simply lobbed a high feed over the top to the waiting Pittard, who jumped and slammed the ball into the net over goalie Drew Queener.
Albany stole the lead back with two seconds left with a textbook Frank Resetarits score. Eric Wolfe handled the ball at X, looking to make a move towards the crease or float the ball back up top. As the Big Red defense began to sink and focus more on Wolfe, Resetarits made one of his signature cuts from the middle, snagging the feed and scoring from about two yards in front of the crease. The goal was Resetarits’ only tally of the day, a frustrating stat for a player used to being deadly from that close. Both he and Thompson, Albany’s big finishers, couldn’t find the gaps they usually exploit for high dividends.
“They threw pretty much everything at us in the middle,” an emotional Resetarits said after the game.
Albany built their lead to two on the opening possession of the second half when middie Jordan Levine grabbed the loose ball, carried down field, and scored unassisted. But oh how quickly things can change in lacrosse.
Having difficulties at the faceoff X all day, Tambroni opted to let his most athletic midfielder, Seibald, take a few draws. Seibald was able to spark his team, who exploded for three goals in 19 seconds.
Seibald tallied the first of the barrage, with an unassisted goal off a hard drive towards the net. Next, Seibald played the role of distributor, finding Pittard sitting on the crease. Pittard grabbed the pass and tucked the ball right under Queener for the score. Mitchell capped off the last score, a highly opportunistic goal. Albany won the faceoff, and as a Dane was trying to get the ball out of traffic, he attempted to pass the ball back to Queener and initiate a clear. But standing right next to the keeper was Mitchell, who simply stole the pass and popped the ball into the empty net.
About three minutes later, Cornell built the lead up to two, their largest of the day. Utilizing very proficient passing around the box. Standing dead at X, Casey Lewis passed to Pittard on the wing. As the defense shifted, Lewis was able to cut back up into the middle, where Pittard found him for the goal.
But Albany seemed unfazed. Alpizar got the ball on the wing and just out worked his defender for the goal. Driving hard and rolling left-to-right, he was able to get under his man and break for the cage, shooting and scoring before any slide came.
Though Albany might be known for a goalie that loves to run in transition and score, today they found firepower in a different defender. Longstick middie Chris Schongar got possession and began pushing transition. As he continued to carry down field, no one came to defend him. Taking a few unfettered steps into the box, Schongar just cocked back and blasted a high hard shot past Cornell keeper Matt McMonagle.
But Cornell was able to retake the lead with seven minutes left in the third. John Espey go the ball to Lewis who dropped his stick and slipped a worm-burner past Queener.
Despite scrappy, loose play and some good runs up field, neither team scored for more than 13 minutes. Cornell ended the drought with 8:40 left in the fourth, when Mitchell scored his fourth goal from Pittard’s fourth assist. A longstick carried down into the box where he met pressure. Somehow he got a one-handed pass accurately out of his six foot stick and to Pittard who saw Mitchell sitting on the crease and got him the ball for the finish, reestablishing a two-goal lead for Cornell.
Albany would not go quietly into night though. With five minutes left, a low to high shot rattled off the post for Albany. But the always-opportunistic Thompson gobbled up the rebound and flicked it right past McMonagle to cut the deficit to one.
With less than a minute left, Cornell looked like them might escape by running out the clock. But as Max Seibald carried the ball behind the net, an aggressive double team from Queener put the ball on the ground. The Danes got possession and called a timeout with 49.5 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Levine worked on his man, rolling until he got a step to the inside. Levine quickly fired the shot before the slide came, beating McMonagle and scoring the game-tying goal with 17 seconds left.
Cornell’s Seibald won the next possession, storming down field and finding Pittard on the crease. But Queener stood his ground and stuffed the point blank shot, then grabbed the rebound and flung the ball high in the sky to wind out regulation in an 11-11 tie.
Albany got the first possession of overtime, but could do little with it. Seibald and Co. mounted their own charge, but Queener thwarted the onslaught. Albany had a close call of their own when Tyler Endres broke downfield, looking to set up the fast break. He seemed like he would be able to run unscathed when a chasing Seibald sprawled out and checked the ball from Endres stick with an all-or-nothing dive. After a scrum for the ball, Cornell emerged with possession.
As the clock ticked down, Glynn got the ball and pressed up field hitting Pittard. Glynn continued cutting towards the middle urging his teammates to push. As the Albany defense shifted and the slide came from the man covering Glynn, Pittard simply passed the ball back. Glynn, sitting in the middle, grabbed the pass, spun around and fired passed Queener for the game winner, 12-11.
“It was a gutsy performance by both teams today,” Coach Tambroni said after the game. “I feel so proud.”:
Cornell entered the game with a lot of respect for Albany, and it seemed they ended it with even more. Both teams commented on how good the other was and how even-handed the game was.
“At times it wasn’t the prettiest lacrosse, but it ended our way,” Pittard said after the game”.
While Pittard and Mitchell’s big numbers led the offense, the play of Max Seibald typified how a player should play in these types of games. After facing questions all week about his ailing ankle and his status for the game, he responded promptly by pouring his heart out on the field, notching two goals and two assists, but perhaps more importantly, by doing all the intangibles right. He played unselfishly, yet manned up when he had to. He pushed the ball on offense, but also anchored down on D. He hustled everywhere. His head coach said it best, “He played the part of a warrior today.”
Albany seemed to epitomize what America loves in an underdog. They were scrappy, resilient, exciting, and likeable. The Danes were a true example of a team being greater than the some of its parts. Nowhere was the more apparent than at the post game press conference, where Resetarits, Thompson, Levine, and Marr walked to the podium hand-in-hand, all emotional, all wishing they could have made one more play, not for themselves, but for their teammates.
Marr may have summed it up best. “It hurts a lot. Those guys are my friends,” Marr said of his seniors. “They really wanted this bad. I hurt for all my seniors.”
But through tearful eyes the seniors provided an optimistic outlook for this program that largely they built in their four years at Albany.
“We wanted to establish a program here, and I think we did,” Thompson said after the game. “Albany won’t go away.”
For now though, Albany returns to Up-State, it’s players dispersing for the summer. Cornell marches on to Balitmore to play the winner of Sunday’s Duke vs. UNC quarterfinal match. Cornell and Duke have already met once this season on March 20 in Durham. Cornell escaped with a 7-6 lead, and the prospects of a rematch are enticing. Regardless of who Cornell plays though, it will mean some fresh faces and unfamiliar programs in Baltimore, skipping the barbecues for a shot at the championship.
|Eric Pittard||(2, 5)|
|Max Seibald||(2, 2)|
|David Mitchell||(4, 0)|
|Casey Lewis||(2, 0)|
|John Glynn||(1, 1)|
|Henry Bartlett||(1, 0)|
|John Espey||(0, 1)|
|Matt Mcmonagle||12 (0.522)|