May 15, 2010

By Donna Ditota
Special to

Ithaca, NY - Jeff Tambroni worried about the face-off X.

During the week, the Cornell coach mused about how his team would contend with John Schiavone, the Loyola face-off specialist who was winning 60 percent of his draws. Tambroni's concerns were justified. In the second half of Saturday's 11-10 triple-overtime defeat of the Greyhounds, Schiavone won 12-of-15 face-offs after intermission.

Those wins at the face-off X allowed Loyola to dominate time of possession and rally from a 9-2 deficit.

"It was," said Loyola coach Charley Toomey, "the tale of two halves."

Schiavone, who tangled mostly with Cornell's accomplished face-off man, Austin Boykin, in the first half, suddenly solved the Big Red unit. Schiavone said he did not make a single technical adjustment, but merely calmed himself at the X. His teammates' ability to throw balls past Cornell goalie A.J. Fiore in the second half helped Schiavone develop a rhythm.

Toomey has seen that kind of domination from Schiavone all season.

"He goes out there and whether or not it's a short stick or a long pole, there's a plan," Toomey said. "He's got an idea of how his opponents are approaching him, whether or not he needs to time the whistle or whether or not he needs to sit down on the ball and get it to a spot. There's a plan every time."

Tambroni attributed Schiavone's success partly to his quick reaction to the second-half whistle and partly to Schiavone's unflagging determination.

"He's a competitor," Tambroni said. "He's one of the best in the business."

OVERTIME FRENZY: These past two weekends have made for some dramatic viewing for Cornell lacrosse fans.

Last weekend on Schoellkopf Field, the Princeton Tigers rallied in the second half to force overtime and ultimately beat the Big Red in the Ivy League Championship game.

On Saturday, also in Ithaca, Loyola negated a seven-goal disadvantage to tie the game with 7 seconds left in regulation and force OT.

Two games, both forced into overtime.

Cornell players couldn't help but notice.

"It felt very similar to Princeton," said Cornell defender Max Feely, who scored the eventual game-winner against Loyola, "in that we blew a lead in the second half, which is extremely frustrating, especially for the defense, because we pride ourselves on not giving up goals. It's not enough to play a half of lacrosse."

The Big Red advanced, despite all the theatrics, to Stony Brook and the quarterfinals, where it will play the winner of Syracuse vs. Army. Cornell has played both teams this season - it beat Army on an overtime goal from Ryan Hurley, and lost in overtime to Syracuse on a Stephen Keogh goal.

Tambroni would prefer, of course, to dispose of teams in regulation once his team generates a big lead.

"It is a concern. I wouldn't say (I'm) overly concerned," Tambroni said. "The bottom line is that at this point in the year, as long as we win, it doesn't matter how we win it."

NOTES: Feely's goal was the first of his career and just his third career point at Cornell. ... Ryan Hurley's first goal of the game (he finished with two), which came at 12:53 of the second quarter, made him the second player in Cornell history to register 40 goals in three straight seasons. He joined Mike French ('76). ... Loyola goalie Alex Peaty made eight saves in relief of starter Jake Hagelin. Cornell's freshman goalie A.J. Fiore stopped 15 shots.