May 15, 2010

Feature: Big Red Overcomes Loyola Face-Off Specialist, Late Rally

By Donna Ditota
Special to NCAA.com

Ithaca, NY - Cornell's Max Feely galloped upfield, his sights set on the Loyola goal. His teammate, Roy Lang, had just scooped up a ground ball in what had become a three overtime marathon in the first round of the Division I men's NCAA lacrosse tournament.

Lang passed to Feely, a Big Red defender, and Feely kept churning his legs toward the Loyola net. He choked up on his 6-foot stick and fired a shot at Alex Peaty. The ball pocked the back of the net and just like that, Cornell advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time since 2002.

"I just saw green in front of me, so I just pushed it as hard as I could," Feely said. "I was really looking to find one of our attackmen into the box. But their defensemen were holding pretty tight on our attackmen, so I just took it to the goal and shot."

"It was a long pole - typically not a situation you see very often," said Peaty, the Loyola goalie. "At that point it was just who had more guts. The Cornell player came bearing down and I just don't think we made the right decisions to make that stop."

Feely's goal, coming as it did at 2 minutes, 5 seconds of the third overtime period, gave the Big Red an 11-10 win Saturday in front of 1,855 fans gathered at Schoellkopf Field. It also advanced Cornell (11-5) to the NCAA quarterfinals next Sunday at Stony Brook, where the Big Red will play either Syracuse or Army at a time to be determined. Loyola ended its season at 9-5.

Anyone who predicted overtime after the first half of Saturday's game might have been labeled ridiculous.

The Big Red owned an 8-2 advantage at the half. Starting Loyola goalie Jake Hagelin permitted all of those goals and made just two saves before he was lifted for Peaty with 7:09 left before intermission.

Cornell won 8-of-12 face-offs in the first half and outshot the Greyhounds 23-10. Rob Pannell, Steve Mock and Chris Langton each scored two first-half goals for the Big Red. The Cornell lead stretched to 9-2 when David Lau found Mock, who converted a man-up situation at 12:29 of the third quarter.

But from there, John Schiavone single-handedly changed the complexion of the game.

Schiavone, the Loyola face-off man, won 10-of-12 at the face-off X in the second half. With all that possession time, Loyola outshot the Big Red 30-8 in the second half and corralled 20 ground balls to Cornell's eight.

During one span in the third quarter, Loyola scored five goals in fewer than seven minutes, capped by a Collin Finnerty goal at 2:47 of the third quarter that brought the Greyhounds to within 9-7. Schiavone won every face-off during that stretch.

"I think I just settled down a little bit," Schiavone said. "I got more confident in myself and was able to settle down and get it to my team. I'm better when my team's better. When we're scoring more goals, it's giving me more chances and getting me into a rhythm."

Stephen Murray collected a pass from Cooper MacDonnell with seven seconds left in regulation and buried the ball to force overtime.

After two scoreless four-minute overtime periods, Feely ended the game with the shot off his long stick.

The Big Red, which fell to Syracuse and Princeton during the regular season on overtime goals, learned what it was like to win a big game in a tense extra period.

"It's incredible when you win an OT game," Feely said, "because everything's on the line."