May 23, 2010

By Chris R. Vaccaro
Special to

STONY BROOK, N.Y. - For a team that could have made its way through the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Tournament as this year's Cinderella squad, Army looked less than spectacular in its quarterfinal against Cornell on Sunday.

From the Big Red's opening 4-0 lead to the many missed shots and lack luster performance on defense, the Black Knights looked spent against a crisp and fundamentally focused Cornell (12-5) club a Stony Brook University's Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

Cornell won, 14-5, and earned the chance to play Notre Dame (8-6) Saturday in the NCAA Division I Final Four at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. Cornell will be making its third appearance in the event since 2007.

The game was much different than last week's triple-overtime win for Cornell, which played in the longest game in NCAA tournament history against Loyola. The Big Red dropped a major lead then, but was in the driver's seat the entire time Sunday. And after losing 16 seniors from last year's national championship runner-up squad, Cornell coach Jeff Tambroni was skeptical if he'd have a chance to return.

"It's difficult to believe we'd be sitting here right now thinking about Notre Dame and the Final Four," he said. "It's a credit to the seniors and captains."

While Army's play was half the blame, it was Cornell that dominated both sides of the ball. Senior attackman Ryan Hurley was dead-on with most of his shots, scoring four goals, including two in the first quarter. He became Cornell's third all-time leading points scorer by the end of the game.

"He finished his shots," said Army coach Joe Alberici. "He can get to the goal. We tried to take that piece away from them, but obviously we weren't successful. We came up short on the lacrosse end."

Army's first goal didn't come until the 2-minute, 4-second mark of the first quarter when Jeremy Boltus ran in untouched to toss a shot past Cornell goalie A.J. Fiore.

Cornell pulled everything out of its repertoire during the game. Steve Mock's dodge-and-go tally at 12:52 of the second quarter showed the team's elusive pass-and-shoot skills, and gave a clear example of Army's weak interior defense.

For some time, Cornell was averaging a goal every two minutes. After Mock's goal, his second of the game, Hurley scored an unassisted mark at 10:38, fooling Army goalie Tom Palesky with quick stick work.
In the final seconds of the first half, Palesky came about 20 yards out of his crease to cut off a loose ball, and pulled his groin in doing so. He played the rest of the game, but had significant pain as he was limping and awkwardly rotating around during saves.

"He's a selfless player," Boltus said. "We knew he'd being coming back in."

Cornell opened the scoring gap further in the second half when long-stick defender Max Feeley, who scored the game-winner against Loyola, etched his second career goal onto the scoring sheet at 7:34.

Garrett Thul and Devin Lynch both scored for Army in the second as well.

Cornell plowed in six more unanswered goals in the third and fourth quarters and had its biggest lead of the day - 10 goals - when the score was 14-4 in the fourth. Cornell freshman Mike Bronzino scored his first career goal with 7:42 remaining and Andrew MacDonald scored his first goal a minute later for the Big Red.

Tambroni was exceptionally pleased with Bronzino's performance.

"He was such a presence on the ground," he said. "He provided such a source of enthusiasm. He stood out amongst everybody."

Alberici said his team was lacking in ground balls and time of possession, which is something the Black Knights have not had trouble with all year. Cornell won the groundball battle with a 38-24 advantage.

"They did to us what we've done to other teams," he said.