PHILADELPHIA -- Five incredible years flashed before Rob Pannell’s eyes moments after the final whistle blew of his last collegiate lacrosse game Saturday.

“I don’t think I have enough time to tell you what Rob Pannell has meant to our program,” Cornell head coach Ben DeLuca said.

Pannell, the Big Red’s fifth-year senior, had another solid outing, scoring five goals and dishing out two assists. The points pushed Pannell into the top spot on the NCAA’s all-time points list with 254. Entering the weekend, Duke assistant coach Matt Danowski held the record with 253. Danowski lost the record but his Blue Devils won the game, beating Cornell 16-14 to advance to Monday’s national championship at Lincoln Financial Field.

Cornell mounted a major rally after trailing 14-7 entering the final quarter. However, All-American Brendon Fowler won a critical faceoff and Jordan Wolf finished a long run from the wing with a goal in the final 40 seconds to stop the Big Red's momentum.

As Duke players celebrated, just feet away, the best collegiate lacrosse player in the country was almost in a trance.

“It’s been an incredible fifth year, an incredible five years at Cornell,” said Pannell, trying to keep his emotions in check. “I love Cornell more than anything; I love Cornell lacrosse. It’s the best program in the country.
“I wasn’t going to give up a fifth year.”

Pannell opened the scoring on Saturday with a rocket shot early in the first quarter. The Big Red jumped out to a 5-2 lead, but trailed 7-6 at halftime. A disastrous third quarter saw the Blue Devils outscore Cornell 7-1 to lead 14-7 with 15 minutes to play.

Cornell, and Pannell, then mounted a monster rally with Pannell assisting on Connor English’s sweet underhanded gem, and scoring back-to-back goals to cut the lead to 14-12. Connor Buczek drew the Big Red to 15-14, but Duke was able to hang on down the stretch.

Pannell’s sole purpose in 2013 was to lead his team to a national championship. The scoring record was secondary.

“The record is what it is,” he said. “I would give up everything for a chance to play on Monday.”

Also holding back tears, DeLuca tried to put into words what the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer meant to his program.

“You talk about one of the greatest leaders our program has ever seen,” said DeLuca of Pannell, a Smithtown, N.Y., native. “One of the most loyal young men, one of the hardest workers, one of the most complete players in the game who was never satisfied with where he was. He continued to push the bar not only for himself, but for his teammates.

“You talk about leaving someplace better than you found it. … Rob Pannell leaves Cornell lacrosse better than he found it. His legacy will be lasting and permanent. He is a special young man.”