February 14, 2012

Season Preview (MD1): No. 4 Cornell Big Red

by Brian Delaney | LaxMagazine.com

Rob Pannell has 236 points through three years, but wants to end his Cornell career with a national championship.
© Greg Wall 

As the sole captain of Cornell's 2012 roster, senior Rob Pannell is now equal parts offensive superstar and team leader. The two-time Jack Turnbull Award winner as Division I's top attackman heads a Big Red roster loaded with depth, talent and playing experience.

Pannell played in the national championship game as a freshman in 2009. This 2012 team is similarly equipped to make a title run.

"You're going to see, hopefully, the next step in the fantastic career of Rob Pannell," Cornell coach Ben DeLuca said. "More than anything, his leadership off the field will be crucial."

Pannell has 236 points through three years, but he was helped tremendously in 2011 by the development of fellow first-team All-American midfielder Roy Lang. Lang scored 27 goals and returns to lead an experienced unit that includes Chris Langton, J.J. Gilbane, Scott Austin and Mike O'Neil. Attackman Steve Mock (40 goals) is back, as are five of seven contributing defensemen, including juniors Jason Noble (honorable mention All-American), Thomas Keith, Mike Bronzino and Thomas Trasolini. Goalies A.J. Fiore and Andrew West also return.

Goalie is a position of intrigue. Fiore is the incumbent starter, but Cornell needs more consistency out of the position. Both West and Fiore head into February vying for the starting spot.

"We're going to wait and see," DeLuca said. "At this point, we're still in an open competition."

Fiore had a .504 save percentage and an 8.31 goals against average as a sophomore. In limited appearances, West saved 59.1 percent of the shots he faced. DeLuca will carry four goalies this year, including Brian O'Donnell and freshman Will Joyce. The latter two have shown flashes of excellence, but Fiore and West are the leaders.

"They both have different strengths and things they need to work on. Both did a good job [in the fall] of directing our defense and taking that next step forward individually," DeLuca said. "They both did a good job, but I don't think either separated themselves as the guy."

DeLuca expects several underclassmen to provide depth for his production leaders. Freshmen Matt Donovan (attack), U.S. U19 team standout Connor Buczek (attack/midfield) and Jordan Stevens (defense) played well in the fall.

Graduation left holes in the Big Red rotation. Attackman David Lau, midfielder Jack Dudley and All-American defenseman Max Feely head the list of the departed. Junior attackman Max Van Bourgondien, sophomore midfielder Sten Jernudd, sophomore defenseman Ross Rudow, sophomore defenseman Joe Paoletta, sophomore defenseman Tom Freshour, and senior converted pole Matt Restaino are waiting in the wings.

Most of the lacrosse-watching nation will be interested to see if Pannell can cap his scintillating career with a championship. If the goaltending and faceoff play improve to the levels DeLuca believes they can, the Big Red will be a factor on Memorial Day weekend.

And Pannell will get a chance for a storybook ending.

This article appears in the February issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription to LM. Follow LaxMagazine.com all season long, and check out the Big Red's team page.

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