October 8, 2012

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Cornell the 'Winner' of First Capital Lax Classic

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Max Van Bourgondien played on Cornell's second-line midfield on Sunday at the Capital Lacrosse Classic held at Landon School in Bethesda, Md.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

BETHESDA, Md. — As Cornell coach Ben DeLuca explained, there's no charity "nearer and dearer to our hearts" than the Mario St. George Boiardi Foundation, host of the first-ever Capital Lacrosse Invitational on Sunday.

For all intents and purposes, DeLuca could have been speaking for all the participating schools — Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Penn State and North Carolina — which each played two 80-minute scrimmages at the event, before Team USA played an six-quarter intrasquad scrimmage later in the afternoon.

DeLuca was an assistant under Johns Hopkins' Dave Pietramala, who recruited goalie George Boiardi to Ithaca, and Penn State's Jeff Tambroni, the Big Red's head man when Boiardi died playing lacrosse for Cornell in 2004.

So the lacrosse action Sunday at Landon School, Boiardi's alma mater, took a back seat to the Foundation's efforts and mission. Its website read: "Five Teams. One Cause."

"Being here puts the games in perspective, as it always is for me, since that day back in 2004," Tambroni said. "It's an honor to even be a part of this whole event. We've communicated with our guys, on a number of occasions, about why we're here and why we're playing. Lacrosse is secondary to the reason we're down here and the benefit we're all playing and competing for."

Said DeLuca: "The entire focus was on the Foundation today and raising awareness for the Boiardi Foundation. Coming down here and representing our school and our program and our family, we're proud to be a part of a tournament like this. To be able to come down here and participate in an event like this is wonderful for our guys. I'm just happy to be a part of it."

A rainy and cold day in suburban Washington, D.C., couldn't diminish the day's dignity. Chris Viola, the Foundation's events chair, called the event a "huge success" in a speech after the collegiate scrimmages.

DeLuca initially pitched the idea to the Foundation's board, of which he is a member, a couple years ago. On Sunday, Viola suggested the Capital Lacrosse Invitational could become a fall ball staple, and the Foundation "definitely" plans to host it again next year.

"All the credit goes to the Boiardi Foundation and their executive staff," DeLuca said. "They did a great job today, of organizing the event and putting on a first-class event that I hope will continue to grow in the coming years."

Representatives from local schools Towson, Navy and Maryland were on hand to take in the action.

"I give the Foundation a ton of credit," Tambroni said. "They've worked awful hard. It's a group of young men who have created the Foundation, and they're doing wonderful things, not just for the Foundation, but also for the sport of lacrosse. They did a wonderful job organizing the event."

Unofficial Scores

Cornell 9, North Carolina 8
Johns Hopkins 13, Penn State 7
Penn State 17, North Carolina 10
Cornell 12, Johns Hopkins 6

Cornell Impresses

Cornell coach Ben DeLuca tempered expectations after an impressive showing. "Nobody has ever won any championships in the fall," he said.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Though DeLuca said, "We didn't really keep track of the score, our goal was to come in and give a Boiardi-like effort, and our guys did that today," he couldn't be anything but thrilled about Cornell's performance.

The Big Red were the big winners Sunday, which was especially clear against the Blue Jays. They played with a high energy level, never let their opponents get comfortable and attacked in waves. With Ivy League restrictions limiting Cornell's fall practice schedule, if this is what they look like after a couple weeks, what will they look like come March?

By an unofficial tally, the Big Red led Hopkins 9-2 through two quarters, even though they were playing without their top two scorers. Rob Pannell, who isn't enrolled at Cornell this semesterbut will be in the spring, later suited up for Team USA. He was the scrimmage's leading scorer, tallying four goals and four assists. Matt Donovan did not play because of undisclosed injury but is expected to be fine for the spring.

Steve Mock, Dan Lintner and Cody Bremner started on attack, while Connor Buczek, Mike O'Neil and Ross Gillum ran as the first-line midfield. Connor English, Max Van Bourgondien and John Hogan were the second-line, and Sten Jernudd subbed in.

With so many players rotating, the Big Red seemingly never stopped sending offensive pressure. And they played fast, pushed the tempo and got up-and-down quickly.

"We weren't sure when the rules were going to change, or if they were going to stay, so we just generally try to keep a very high pace in practice, a high tempo in practice. We like the rules. We like to play fast," DeLuca said. "We practice playing at a high pace, moving quickly and attacking the goal. I don't think it was a major change for us, but once you play against a team who wants to play a little more 6-on-6 and slow it down, it'll have a bigger factor."

Junior goalie Andrew West was out with an injury, and senior A.J. Fiore "played lights out," DeLuca said. Will Joyce played the second half of the first scrimmage, and Brennan Donville played the second half of the second game.

Jason Noble, Mike Bronzio and Tom Freshour started at close defense, and actively pressured out away from the cage, forcing numerous turnovers. Johns Hopkins had few opportunities to get into its settled offense in the first half.

"Our coaching staff was very appreciative of the way we competed off the ground, getting after the ground balls and making smart plays, and playing an unselfish brand of lacrosse, which is what we're looking to do," DeLuca said. "This is our only opportunity to compete against other teams in the fall, and we wanted to evaluate every healthy member of our roster, which we did. Every healthy member of our team played today, and got extensive minutes."

DeLuca wanted to temper expectations.

"We have a lot to work on, and nobody has ever won any championships in the fall," he said.

But there was a lot to be excited about.

Quick-Hitters

- Rob Guida stood out for Hopkins, which featured a heavy dose of its usual suspects: Zach Palmer and Brandon Benn on attack, John Ranagan and Lee Coppersmith at midfield, and Tucker Durkin and Chris Lightner at close defense. Mike Pellegrino played pole, and Jack Reilly rotated. Guida ripped a couple corners, and whether it was because of the new rules or by design, spent a decent amount of time on defense.

- Penn State's Austin Kaut played every minute of both scrimmages for Penn State, and it was a case of "Kaut being Kaut." That is, he looked good. Freshman attackman TJ Sanders, a Canadian, has dynamic finishing ability in tight-quarters. Freshman midfielder Sammy Davis' athleticism will make it hard to keep him off the field.

- North Carolina had 12 players dressed in jumpsuits on the sidelines who were unable to play Sunday. The Tar Heels mixed and matched more than any other team. Sophomore midfielder Chad Tutton was aggressive. Fellow sophomore midfielder Walker Chafee, who sticks out on the field for his size, also showed well.


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