May 31, 2013

Two Years Later, Pannell Earns Tewaaraton Award Honor

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rob Pannell was in Washington two years ago for the Tewaaraton Award ceremony — the first time he was a finalist.

Here's the rundown of what happened since:

He was beat out for the Tewaaraton in 2011 by Virginia's Steele Stanwick. Pannell was drafted first overall by the MLL's Lizards in January 2012. He broke his left foot in Cornell's second game last year. He had surgery. He sought to return before the end of the season, but health wouldn't allow it. He watched as the Big Red missed the 2012 NCAA tournament.

He was granted a fifth-year of athletic eligibility by the Ivy League, and returned to the team in the spring. Having been away in the fall, it was an adjustment for the 23-year-old, who had been a solo team captain his first senior year, to assimilate into a group on which he was now one of three designated leaders in a new senior class. He worked back into it physically and mentally, but the thought of potentially breaking his foot again lingered in his mind. The more practices that went by and the more games he played in, the more those thoughts went away.

He took his game back to the Rob Pannell of old, and in some ways, he took it and the Big Red offense to another level. He became the NCAA Division I all-time points leader with 354. In the game in which he set the record, the Big Red lost to Duke in the national semifinals. It was one game, and two wins short of what Cornell wanted to accomplish this year.

And finally, on Thursday night, Pannell returned to Washington, D.C., wearing once again a suit and tie as one of five Tewaaraton Award finalists.

This time he won.

"There's no consolation to a national championship, and there never will be, but I think this award says a lot about the team I was on this year, and the 15 other seniors along with myself, and the 40 other players who played great all season," Pannell said.

Pannell beat out fellow finalists Marcus Holman (North Carolina), JoJo Marasco (Syracuse), Tom Schreiber (Princeton) and Lyle Thompson (Albany), the latter a sophomore who came within one point of tying the 23-year-old NCAA Division I single-season points record.

Cornell's Rob Pannell won the 2013 Tewaaraton Award Thursday night at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

"It's definitely been a roller-coaster of emotions, thinking that potentially in 2011 he may have been able to be selected for this award," Cornell coach Ben DeLuca said after Pannell's acceptance speech Thursday night at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. "To have him be selected this year, after the season that he's had and after the journey that he's been through to come back to Cornell and lead our team this year, is very impressive, and I think very well deserved."

In Pannell's speech before a standing-room only audience, he began by thanking the event organizers and selection committee, and by recognizing the other four men's finalists and five women's finalists. He then addressed his Cornell teammates.

"I wish my 15 other senior classmates from this year could be up here with me," he said. "Without them welcoming be back for a fifth year and welcoming me on to the team, I wouldn't be here. And without their play and the success that we've had all season long, I would not be up here as well. In a large way, it's a team award and I have them to thank for that."

He mentioned that the Tewaaraton Award would have a permanent residence in the Cornell Lacrosse offices in Ithaca, N.Y., "so people who walk in there not only see my name on it, but think about the 2013 team and how successful that we were," he said.

He then began a list of heart-felt thank-yous: Cornell athletic director Andy Noel for his support of the program; the Cornell Lacrosse family and alumni; 2009 Tewaaraton winner Max Seibald, who sat in the front row and is a mentor to Pannell; Dr. David Levine, who performed foot surgery on Pannell last year; Cornell strength and conditioning coach Tom Howley; another mentor, Hall of Famer Richie Moran; the current Cornell coaching staff of Paul Richards, Matt Kerwick, Mark Wittink and DeLuca; Michelle Berry, who has served as a guidance counselor over the last few weeks; his grandparents, who attend every game; his brother, James, a rising sophomore attackman at Virginia; his sister, Genevieve Pannell, a schoolteacher who took off of work to travel to Washington; his uncle, Jim Metzger, who orchestrated Pannell's path from lightly-recruited Long Island high school product to Cornell great; and his parents.

"I'm not quite calm on game days until I see them in the stands," Pannell concluded. "They make this experience for me all the more special."

It was revealing that among those words of appreciation, Pannell thanked his doctor, which drew laughs from the crowd. But this was a serious issue.

He still feels pain in his left foot, in which he broke the fifth metatarsal (pinky toe) in that second game of the 2011 season. He underwent surgery, performed by Cornell alum Levine, during which a three-inch screw was inserted to fuse the snapped bone together. The idea was to return for the end of his senior season, but he re-injured his foot in practice trying to come back. And the pain was too much.

It was a huge mental hurdle to overcome — coming back from injury — and Pannell said he didn't really clear it until early this season.

"I was worried I was going to break it again," he said Thursday night, "but once I got past the first few games, I think it was the second game mark where I was like, 'I broke it in the second game of the season before.' I got past that and thought it's not going to break again. It still hurts sometimes, but you just gotta stay positive. Once I had some confidence in it, it went from there."

Pannell ranked third in the nation in points (5.67) and assists (3.06) per game this season, and his connection with finisher Steve Mock, the nation's leading goal-scorer with 60, was something to watch. Pannell's 102 points this year are the most ever for a Tewaaraton Award winner. Cornell averaged 14.56 goals per game, second highest in the nation behind Albany (15.94).

Long-time Johns Hopkins head coach and athletic director Bob Scott was the Spirit of Tewaaraton Award recepient.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

"It took a while for him to get himself 100 percent comfortable," DeLuca said, "but once he did, I think you really saw him take off and raise his game along with our team's game."

What's next for the Tewaaraton winner? A drive north up Interstate-95, then through New York City and east to his native Long Island, where a black-and-green New York Lizards jersey is waiting for him. His pro debut is Friday night.

Blue Jay Pride on Hand for Spirit of Tewaaraton, Tewaaraton Legends Awards

National Lacrosse Hall of Famer Bob Scott delighted the crowd with a couple short stories upon becoming the sixth recipient of the Spirit of Tewaaraton Award, presented to an individual who reflects the finest virtues exemplified in the game of lacrosse.

Scott led Johns Hopkins to seven national titles as men's lacrosse coach, then served as the school's athletic director for 21 years. He's Blue Jay through and through, but — after some reservation — allowed his daughter, Nancy, to attend archrival Maryland, where she became an All-American player. In 1986, he was in attendance at the Terps national title game title with Penn State at Byrd Stadium.

With Maryland leading 11-10 late in the game, Nancy went to the Penn State goal ("She wanted to win the game by two," Scott said) instead of, as her father hoped, going behind the goal to run out clock. Penn State made a save and went the other way, but a shot misfired. Scott, who already retreated to the upper deck of Byrd to be himself during the game, found himself emotional.

"There I was crying for a Maryland win," he said, to much laughter from the crowd Thursday.

Scott wasn't the only Johns Hopkins great honored Thursday. Joe Cowan, a first-team All-American on each of the Blue Jays' national title teams from 1967-69, was the Tewaaraton Legends Award recipient. Past winners include the late Eamon McEneaney (2012) and Jim Brown (2011).

McMicking Wins US Lacrosse Tewaaraton Native American Scholarship

Robert McMicking, a senior at Niagara-Wheatfield (N.Y.) High won the seventh annual US Lacrosse Tewaaraton Native American Scholarship. The scholarships are awarded to Native American high school lacrosse players — one male and one female — who are members of a U.S. tribe. They are based on students' academic achievement, athletic performance and ambition. McMicking, a member of the Cayuga Nation, will play at the University of Tampa next year.


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