April 27, 2012

MD1 Notebook: Selfless Lang is Cornell's Glue Guy

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

A defensive middie as a freshman – when the Big Red lost a heartbreaker to Syracuse in the NCAA title game – Roy Lang moved up the food chain over his next two seasons on offense. Then, early last fall, DeLuca told Lang he need him back on defense.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Senior midfielder Roy Lang soon will graduate from Cornell University with Bachelor's degrees in history and American studies, and he expresses himself in a way that befits a member of the all-Ivy academic club.

When asked how the Big Red have dealt with the eight-week absence of senior superstar attackman Rob Pannell – who is recovering nicely from foot surgery but may decide not to return to retain his final year of eligibility – Lang said, "We've had huge components of adversity to deal with. We've missed Rob's vision."

When asked why No. 8 Cornell (9-2) stumbled in last week's 10-9 upset loss to Ivy League rival Brown, a defeat that ended the Big Red's six-game winning streak and stopped the nation's longest home winning streak at 15 games, Lang said, "Brown is a good team playing with anger and enthusiasm. We could use more of that."

When asked how his season-long return to defensive midfield is going, following his first-team, All-America year on Cornell's first midfield unit in 2011, Lang said, "You learn as a senior it's not really about [personal] recognition. It's about the team dynamic. I didn't get that right away. It happened organically."

If the NCAA issued a Division I Glue of the Team Award, Lang might win it easily.

Ask Big Red coach Ben DeLuca how Cornell has navigated the 2012 season with a relatively young team and without its remarkable team captain, and DeLuca points to the Big Red's reservoir of toughness – evidence of the program's pedigree, as Cornell seeks its ninth straight NCAA tournament appearance.

There is the emergence of freshman attackman Matt Donovan (14 goals, 14 assists) and junior attackman Connor English (17, 8), the Virginia transfer who is Pannell's replacement. And the first midfield, led by junior Max Van Bourgondien (28 points) and senior Chris Langton (16 goals). And the defense, which has allowed barely eight goals per game and is anchored by junior Jason Noble (21 caused turnovers) and sophomore goalie Andrew West (8.5 saves per start).

Yet, DeLuca also singles out Lang, the short-stick midfielder who has scored 14 goals and has taken one for the team as an all-around leader. Lang, who primarily plays defense, but runs plenty of offense and has done solid work on the faceoff wing, is the swift and tireless, two-way performer that symbolizes Cornell.

It has not been the senior season that Lang originally envisioned. A defensive middie as a freshman – when the Big Red lost a heartbreaker to Syracuse in the NCAA title game – Lang moved up the food chain over his next two seasons on offense. Then, early last fall, DeLuca told Lang he need him back on defense.

"Moving to the rope unit was hard for me to deal with at first, especially when I felt like I was really getting the offense down," Lang said. "[Defensive midfield] is a very tough position."

And it's a position that requires an old-school kind of player who covers tons of ground and responsibility with a high level of energy and commitment. Enter Lang.

"We like to play at a fast tempo, and that requires two-way middies with great stamina. We needed Roy's ability to inspire his teammates at the defensive end," said DeLuca, whose Big Red will battle at Princeton on Saturday for the chance to host next week's league tournament that will produce an AQ for the NCAAs. "He has done it without complaint or batting an eye. Roy does everything for us."

Is Duke Over Fourth Quarter Woes?

No. 4 Duke has an impressive 10-game winning streak going, which is pretty amazing when you consider how bad the Blue Devils looked while getting smacked around by Loyola in Baltimore on March 10. That humbling, 13-8 loss, which was not as close as the score indicated, left Duke with a 3-3 record.

The Blue Devils close out their regular season Friday night at fading, 16th-ranked Denver, as ACC champions.

Over a span of nine recent days, Duke came to own Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, first by ruining Virginia's Senior Night on April 13 with a 13-5 rout. The Blue Devils returned to the ACC tourney at Virginia last weekend to edge Maryland in a 6-5, semifinal slugfest, before out-punching North Carolina in a 12-9 title-game victory.

And the last person that thinks Duke is out of the woods is head coach John Danowski.

"Before playing those ACC games, we were really struggling to close teams out. We were making mistakes late in games, throwing the ball away and freaking out a little bit," Danowski said. "We're getting better at that. But you're never quite sure if your team is getting better or if you're catching your opponents [at the right time]. We never talk about the streak."

Early during the winning streak, Duke allowed Georgetown to score five unanswered goals in the fourth quarter of a 13-11 decision, gave up four straight to Harvard late in an 11-8 win, allowed three in a row at the end of an 11-9 win over Carolina. And the Blue Devils had to come from behind to edge Marist, 10-9, six days before blowing out Virginia.

Patriot League Tournament Sure to be Close

As the Patriot League tournament gets underway at Colgate in Hamilton, N.Y., one thing seems likely. This NCAA tournament automatic bid could be earned by anyone, and every game probably will be a dogfight.

On Friday, No. 4 seed Bucknell takes on top-seeded Colgate, followed by Lehigh-Army. The winners play in Hamilton on Sunday.

Five of the six regular-season contests between the four seeded teams were decided by one goal. The other game was decided by two. And two of the six decisions required a combined three overtime periods.

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