April 12, 2011

Cornell Bottles Up Syracuse in Carrier Dome

by Brian Delaney | LaxMagazine.com

Junior attackman Rob Pannell enjoyed a Tewaaraton-caliber performance -- three goals and three assists -- but the laurels went to Cornell's stifling defense in an 11-6 upset of top-ranked Syracuse on Tuesday.

© Greg Wall

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Ben DeLuca has raved about the potential of his deep group of sophomore defensemen. Cornell’s top seven, currently, includes five of them. Through 10 games, the unit’s best work had come in flashes – some, admittedly, longer and brighter than others.

But what No. 1 Syracuse witnessed Tuesday night at the Carrier Dome, where fifth-ranked Cornell handed the Orange a decisive 11-6 defeat, was a stunning leap in that group’s collective maturation process.

“I think it was a major step forward,” said DeLuca, who was Jeff Tambroni’s longtime defensive coordinator before taking over the program last offseason. “I’m really proud of them.”

The sophomores – goalie A.J. Fiore, close defensemen Mike Bronzino and Jason Noble, longstick midfielder Thomas Keith, and shortstick midfielder Tom Trasolini – were razor sharp. The group ranges from 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds (Noble) to 6-feet and 180 (Keith). It’s a group built upon guile, quickness and footwork – not mashers.

For Cornell, it works, never moreso than Tuesday.

Senior All-American candidate Max Feely locked up JoJo Morasco, and the Big Red rotated a number of shorties on Stephen Keogh to hold Syracuse’s sniper pointless. Fiore finished with eight saves, all of which came after a first quarter that saw Cornell dominate possession time and open up a 5-1 lead.

“It’s a credit to all seven guys,” Feely said. “The other six guys out there with me – A.J. made some great saves, the other guys were sliding when they needed to. They picked off I can’t remember how many passes. A lot of passes, they were knocked it to the ground.”

Syracuse had 20 turnovers. Fourteen were caused by Cornell players. Noble and Keith each registered four. When Cornell’s ball carrying turned sloppy in the fourth quarter, leading to nine turnovers and a number of transition opportunities for the Orange, the Big Red continued to make correct reads and use of its quickness. Interceptions, trail checks, backdoor double-teams – all bothered the hosts.

“They played great defense,” Syracuse coach John Desko said. “They got all over us.”

Keogh, who leads Syracuse with 20 goals, finished with two shots. It was difficult to remember either. Cornell instead double-poled the Orange’s midfield and stayed a step ahead of the hosts’ dodgers. Syracuse’s most effective player, junior midfielder Josh Amidon, had three goals and two assists. His goals were of the catch-and-shoot variety.

“I feel like we stuck to our game plan,” Feely said. “I felt like we played great defense six on six. We had a few lapses in transition and unsettled situations, but overall I felt we stuck to our game plan and that made all the difference.”

Syracuse played without two key starters: senior close defenseman John Lade and junior attackman Tim Desko. On Monday, DeLuca called Desko one of Syracuse’s most overlooked talents. His presence was missed. Junior Tommy Palasek got the start, scored two goals and set up another. But Syracuse could never string together more than two goals at a clip, as Cornell continually harassed Orange ballcarriers into mistakes.

“It was their night. A lot of things fell their way, and they made a lot of things fall their way,” Desko said.

Cornell has Ivy League games remaining against Brown on April 23, and Princeton on April 30. A win in either game clinches the regular season crown outright.

In Tuesday’s postgame, DeLuca lauded his defenseman name by name. He left out no one. There was no one to leave out. Not on this night.

“Those guys, we’re watching them mature and grow up day by day, week by week,” he said. “I’m just very proud.”

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