May 12, 2013

Pannell, Cornell Thump No. 6 Maryland

by Gary Lambrecht |

With seven points in Sunday's win over Maryland, Pannell moved within 14 points of tying Matt Danowski's career NCAA record of 353.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Cornell superstar attackman Rob Pannell, the leader of a deep senior class at a school that for years has set the standard in an ever-improving Ivy League, said he could sense the extra spice of urgency last week, as the Big Red prepared for their first-round NCAA tournament test.

Unfortunately, for No. 6 seed and host Maryland on Sunday in College Park, Md., Pannell had a perfect read on the team he has led so remarkably.

With Pannell, fellow senior attackman Steve Mock and junior faceoff specialist Doug Tesoriero leading the way, unseeded Cornell took apart the Terrapins with surgical precision in a 16-8 romp, before 2,739 at Byrd Stadium.

It was a nightmarish way for Maryland's see-saw ride in 2013 to end. The Terps, who got off to a 6-0 start and spent six weeks ranked No. 1 as a result, sputtered to a 10-4 finish.

Maryland, which had designs on the school's first NCAA title since 1975 after reaching the championship game in the past two seasons, got dismissed forcefully by Cornell, which never trailed and leveled the Terps with 10 second-half goals. It ended up as the most lopsided NCAA tournament loss for Maryland since an 18-9 rout by Duke in the semifinals in 2005.

Maryland's nightmare, predictably, started with an explosive Cornell (13-3) offense led by Pannell, the fifth-year senior who has done everything in his storied career but win a national title. Pannell was unstoppable while scoring four goals and adding three assists. Mock also scored four times on seven attempts.

"I think this is one of the more complete games we've played this season. It's always easy to be focused after a loss," said Pannell, alluding to last week's 14-13 overtime loss in the Ivy League tournament semifinal to Princeton, which dropped the Big Red into unseeded territory. "But you don't really know that feeling that this is possibly your last game until it's really here. This was my most focused week ever."

Cornell will come back to Byrd Stadium on Saturday to face third-seeded Ohio State in the quarterfinals. The Big Red, in its ninth NCAA tournament in the past 10 years, is trying to win the school's first national championship since 1988.

Cornell had all of the bases covered against Maryland. The Big dominated possession time and controlled momentum, thanks for starters to Tesoriero, who won 16 of 26 draws.

Cornell also blew away the Terps on ground ball hustle (43-29). And the Big Red defense — a blend of matchup zone and man-to-man — never let the Terps find much comfort, as Maryland made only eight of 35 shots. Cornell senior goalie A.J. Fiore made 12 saves.

Shooting was never an issue with Cornell, which peppered goalie Niko Amato (10 saves) from inside and outside on a day in which only five of the Big Red's 31 shots were not on cage.

It all started with Maryland inability to cover Pannell, who wore down defenseman Gorey Murray in the first half, then drew long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt for much of the second half. Pannell, using fade-away runners and back-handed flip shots and easier shots after great dodges to slip inside, did as he pleased by making four of five shots.

"We had a number of different plans [to try to stop Pannell]," Maryland coach John Tillman said. "But you have to give him his due. He's going to make plays. It may not be in situations where he runs by anybody. He just always has his head up and someone makes a quick cut and he can throw it on a guy's ear. Rob is very mature and wise. Nothing is too big for him."

Pannell, the three-time Ivy League player of the year who has scored at least one goal in 35 straight games and one point in 70 straight, established the Big Red with a goal and an assist. That got Cornell off to a 4-1 lead after the first quarter.

Maryland, on the strength of goals by Mike Chanenchuk, Kevin Cooper and John Haus — he led the Terps with two — was able to trim the Cornell lead to 6-4 at halftime. But the Terps (19 turnovers) could not maintain enough possession time in the second half, while Tesoriero kept stopping any Terrapin runs.

When Haus scored his final goal of the day after bull-dodging his way inside with 10:37 left in the third quarter, Cornell's lead was down to 7-5. It turned out to the high-water mark of the day for the Terps, who then surrendered seven of the game's next nine goals.

Mock completed that run by scoring two goals five seconds apart. His fourth and final score put the Big Red on top, 14-7, with 6:58 left. It also knocked Amato out of the game. He was replaced by sophomore Kyle Bernlohr.

One year after losing Pannell to a season-ending foot injury and missing the NCAA tournament, Cornell is within one game of the final four in Philadelphia. One year after being granted a medical redshirt that allowed him to return for a fifth season, Pannell (40 goals, 47 assists) looks as good as ever. He's within 14 points of tying Matt Danowski's NCAA all-time career record of 353.

"Sometimes I definitely catch myself watching in awe for some of the things [Pannell] does," Cornell coach Ben DeLuca said. "I just thank the Lord we've got No. 3 on our squad and we're not playing against him."

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