Despite a Championship Heartbreaker, a Strong Year for Big Red Lax
Despite a Championship Heartbreaker, a Strong Year for Big Red Lax
With eyes as red as his jersey, Max Seibald '09 sits at a post-game press conference in the basement of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. After drying his face, the men's lacrosse team captain folds his arms across his chest. He's able to answer a few questions from the roomful of reporters before his voice cracks. "There's a lot of emotion in that locker room," Seibald says, pausing. "A lot of emotion."
Just minutes have passed since Seibald and his teammates watched Syracuse University steal away what seemed to be theirs: the 2009 NCAA Lacrosse Championship. Confidently controlling the defensive and offensive ends of the field for the first fifty-six minutes, the Big Red led by three goals with 3:37 to play and was poised to win its first national title since 1977. But in the final minutes the Orange staged a rally, with attacker Kenny Nims evening the score with 4.5 seconds left in regulation play. Eighty seconds into sudden-death overtime, Cornell goalie Jake Myers '09 watched helplessly as Cody Jaimeson's championship-clinching shot whizzed by him. The final score flashed on the stadium's Jumbotron: Syracuse 10, Cornell 9.
The Syracuse players stripped off their helmets and gloves in celebration, leaving a yard sale of equipment at the Cornell-ians' feet. As an Orange mob huddled for the awards ceremony, all midfielder John Glynn '09 could do was stand with his teammates to receive their second-place plaque. "I thought we were in better shape than them," Glynn said after the game, sitting next to the teary Seibald. The graduating senior had netted a hat trick early in the game, but was stifled in the third and fourth quarters. "When they got one goal, and then the next, their adrenaline got pumping and there wasn't much we could do."
The entire 2009 season seemed to be an uphill climb for the Big Red. Although the team upset the top-ranked Princeton Tigers in April and enjoyed a short stint as number one in the nation, it had lackluster showings against higher-echelon squads like the University of Virginia and Syracuse. After they fell to Ivy rival Brown and narrowly edged Hobart College to end the regular season, few believed that head coach Jeff Tambroni had any legitimate shot at winning his first national championship. But in the NCAA tournament, Cornell methodically dispatched Hofstra, Princeton, and the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers. With stout defense and deliberate possession control, the Big Red never trailed an opponent until Syracuse's final goal in the title game. "Sure, we're disappointed with the results," Tambroni says. "But we can't be disappointed with ourselves for giving all that we could to represent our team and the University."
Since the heartbreaking season finale, the team has had plenty of opportunities to soothe the sting. Seibald—a hero in the lacrosse community for his gritty, selfless play—was awarded the Tewaaraton Trophy, the highest individual honor in collegiate men's lacrosse, as well as the Dianne Geppi-Aikens Award for outstanding community service. Seibald, Glynn, and fellow senior Rocco Romero were selected second, tenth, and forty-first, respectively, in the Major League Lacrosse draft. "With the relationships we built and our experiences together, there's so much more to what we accomplished than finishing second," says Seibald. "I wouldn't trade this group of guys for a national championship."
As the sixteen seniors move on to careers in and out of lacrosse, Coach Tambroni is left with the task of chasing another NCAA title. "When the season ends, that's when the coaching staff's work picks up in earnest," says Tambroni. Through the summer, he and his assistants will scour camps across the Northeast, trying to replace the exceptionally gifted graduating class. "It's hard to fill the void of sixteen missing family members," he says. "But every year, we have to reset ourselves and look forward."
— Brian Hotchkiss
FLYING HIGH For all the success Cornell enjoyed during the 2008- 09 athletic season, only one team came home with a national championship: women's gymnastics. By capturing its first USA Gymnastics Collegiate Nationals title, the Big Red also became the first non-scholarship squad to win the event, which is limited to teams offering fewer than eight scholarships. Cornell finished with a team score of 191.675 to share the title with the University of Bridgeport. The Big Red also produced its first individual champion: Stacey Ohara '09, who posted a 9.825 in the balance beam.
OVER THE FENCE A three-run homer by Elise Menaker '10 was the key hit in Cornell's 6-1 win over Dartmouth in the deciding game of the Ivy League softball championship series. The win gave the Big Red women their fourth league title and sent them to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in program history. Shortstop Alyson Intihar '10 was named the Ivy League Player of the Year after hitting .394, and Elizabeth Dalrymple '11 was named the Pitcher of the Year after going 19-5 with a 1.42 ERA. Intihar and Dalrymple were both first-team All-Ivy picks along with first baseman Ashley Garvey '10, outfielder Jessy Berkey '09, and third baseman Menaker.
STRONG SEASON After winning its first divisional title since 2005, the Big Red baseball team finished one game shy of an Ivy League championship. A two-run eighth-inning homer by Frank Hager '12 lifted Cornell to a 4-3 win over Princeton in the regular season finale, leaving the teams tied atop the Gehrig Division. In the tie-breaker, Cornell scored nine times in the first inning to post a 9-0 win and advance to the championship series against Dartmouth, where the Big Green prevailed. Six Cornell players earned All-Ivy honors including first-team picks Nathan Ford '09, a unanimous selection at third base, and pitcher David Rochefort '10, who set a school record with eight saves.
TOPS ON THE TRACK At the 2009 Outdoor Heptagonal championships, the Big Red men ran their streak of outdoor titles to seven, winning four events and finishing second in six others, while the women's team saw its winning streak snapped despite taking six individual titles. Duane Teixeira '10 led the men, earning MVP honors after taking first in both the long jump and triple jump. Garrett Huyler '09 won the high jump with a school record of 7 feet, 3 inches, which also qualified him for the USA outdoor track and field championships. Zac Hine '09 provided the fourth individual title, winning the 10,000 meters. The women fell just seven points short of an eighth straight title despite getting 30 points from Jeomi Maduka '09. She won the long jump and teamed with Janice Nsor '09, Melissa Hewitt '12, and Krystal Williams '12 to set a meet record of 45.78 seconds while winning the 400-meter relay. Maduka also finished second in the triple jump and 100 meters. Maria Matos '09 set an Ivy League record in the shot with a throw of 44 feet, and Natalie Gengel '10 won the pole vault with a meet record of 13-1.5. Cornell's other first came in the 1600-meter relay.
FRONT OFFICE Cornell and pro hockey standout Joe Nieuwendyk '88 is facing another challenge as the new general manager of the NHL's Dallas Stars. Nieuwendyk, who played on the Stars' 1999 Stanley Cup-winning team, will try to revitalize a franchise that posted a mediocre 36-35-11 record in the 2008-09 season.
NEAR MISS Cornell's bid for a perfect women's polo season came up two goals short as the Big Red lost to Virginia, 19-17, in the national title game. The host Cavaliers jumped out to an 8-2 lead before the Big Red rallied to lead 11-9 at halftime. Cornell still led after three quarters, but Virginia mounted a comeback of its own to hand Cornell its only loss of the season. The men's team again saw its season ended by Texas A&M. One year after beating the Big Red in the national championship match, the Aggies ended Cornell's dream of a national title, scoring a 20-14 win in the semifinals.
CLEAN COMPETITION Nutritional sciences professor J. Thomas Brenna, PhD '85, is now working to reduce the use of performance-enhancing substances in professional sports. Brenna received the Partnership for Clean Competition's first anti-doping research grant, worth $500,000. The Partnership was founded in January 2008 by the United States Olympic Committee, the United States Anti-Doping Agency, Major League Baseball, and the National Football League. Brenna hopes his research will allow scientists to detect synthetic anabolic steroid use through urine testing.
|Baseball||17-23; 10-10 Ivy (T-1st, Gehrig Div.)|
|Men's Lacrosse||13-4; 5-1 Ivy (T-1st)|
|Women's Lacrosse||9-7; 3-4 Ivy (T-4th)|
|Varsity Hvywt. Rowing||5-0|
|J.V. Hvywt. Rowing||4-1|
|Fr. Hvywt. Rowing||4-1|
|Varsity Ltwt. Rowing||4-3|
|J.V. Ltwt. Rowing||5-1|
|Fr. Ltwt. Rowing||6-1|
|Women's Varsity Rowing||2-8|
|Women's J.V. Rowing||3-7|
|Women's Novice Rowing||6-8|
|Softball||42-13; 17-3 Ivy (1st, South Div.)|
|Men's Tennis||14-5; 5-2 Ivy (2nd)|
|Women's Tennis||6-14; 2-5 Ivy (T-5th)|