Cornell's Weapons Silenced in Semifinal Loss
by Patrick Stevens | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
NCAA DIVISION I SEMIFINALS: NOTRE DAME 12, CORNELL 7
BALTIMORE, Md. -- With stuff after stuff from burly goalie Scott Rodgers in the 15 minutes, unseeded Notre Dame couldn’t help but to feel better about its chances of reaching its first national title game.
On the other sideline, Cornell felt the exact opposite.
Flustered with Rodgers’ sizzling play, the Big Red’s offense never fully materialized in a 12-7 loss to the Fighting Irish in Saturday’s NCAA semifinals at M&T Bank Stadium.
“I think after that quarter, we probably started second-guessing and squeezing our stick a little more than I’ve seen our team in the past,” Cornell coach Jeff Tambroni said. “It probably worked out to Notre Dame’s favor and it didn’t help us in the offensive end.”
Sophomore Rob Pannell was silenced, held to merely an assist until the final minute. Senior Ryan Hurley, a virtually automatic scorer, went nearly 54 minutes without a goal.
Together, the Cornell stars shot 2-for-14 -- too often encountering the 6-foot-4 Rodgers as a result.
“They took away a lot of the inside looks that we’ve been getting,” Pannell said. “We try to get quality shots inside, and when we did Scott Rodgers did a great job in making saves. We were shooting in places we thought were going to go in and credit to him for doing a good job. He had 16 saves on the day. Credit him and the defense around him.”
The Big Red (12-6) aren’t the first team to be stymied by Rodgers this month, and in some ways actually fared better than either Princeton or Maryland. Yet their overall shooting total (7-for-40) was reflection of a methodical approach that eventually gave way to a little impatient.
The Irish’s defense isn’t particularly flashy, but its fundamentals are remarkably capable of taking away possibilities from opponents.
Against Cornell, it meant that usually when the Big Red looked to make a pass to someone trailing on the back side, a defender was draped on the intended target.
“Notre Dame seemed to pack it in inside and had a great slide package and team system,” Hurley said. “In the first half, we had something like 13 shots on goal and three goals, and [Rodgers] had 10 saves. Credit to him for playing great and keeping those guys in it when we were getting some great looks.”
Rodgers wound up with eight of his saves in the first quarter, and perhaps inadvertently accomplished what Tambroni so hoped to avoid. He preached to his team all week about not dwelling too much on Rodgers’ tendencies or, more importantly, his size.
Instead, they couldn’t help but consider it once the Irish built a 4-1 lead early in the second quarter -- hardly a welcome thought against a sizzling goalie. But Cornell stuck with its plan of going high, even as Rodgers continued his strong play against just about everything.
“We thought if we shot high, that was the right place to shoot,” Pannell said. “We were getting shots off inside and he likes to dip the stick a little bit [as a] lefty. We aimed high when he dropped low. The place to beat him high, and I think that’s where we were shooting in the first half. He stayed high, to his credit.”
And that sent the Big Red to a frustrating low to close out the season. Their ability to jump out to leads helped carry them into the final four. A strong first half against Loyola helped offset later struggles, and a dominant start in the quarterfinals quickly put Army away.
Cornell, however, couldn’t follow its formula to make another step. As a result, the Irish used their own patented plan -- great goalie play and a stingy defense -- to move on to Memorial Day.
“That’s kind of been the trademark of our team, we’ve been able to get off to a good start and a lot of that is because of our shot selection and our ability to put a little pressure on opposing teams’ defense earlier in the game,” Tambroni said. “We’re built a little more to stay ahead than we are come from behind based on the style we play.”
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