Cornell has always been a major player in the college lacrosse landscape, but over the past few years they have had to deal with major changes and roadblocks. However, all of that adversity has led to the Big Red playing on Memorial Day weekend for the first time since 2009. Let’s take a look back at Cornell’s recent history and their path to Championship Weekend.
Cornell has had its fair share of ups and downs over the last five seasons. In 2018 under Peter Milliman, the Big Red finished the regular season 13-5 (4-2 in the Ivy League), and won the Ivy League Tournament, upsetting the eventual NCAA champion Yale Bulldogs 14-8. Cornell made it to the NCAA Quarterfinals, where they lost to the No.1 seeded Maryland Terrapins. The following season was a down year for Cornell as they finished third behind Penn and Yale in the Ivy League, and missed out on the NCAA Tournament.
Cornell bounced back with a great start to the 2020 lacrosse season, going 5-0 and being ranked second in the nation. Milliman had his squad looking like true title contenders, especially after knocking off Penn State in one of the better games in recent memory. Unfortunately, COVID-19 ended the 2020 season, and with that came changes to the program as a whole.
Peter Milliman left the Cornell program for Johns Hopkins weeks after the 2020 season was canceled, which led to the hiring of Connor Buczek in May. There was plenty of buzz around Cornell leading up to the 2021 season, but unfortunately the Ivy League decided against playing that season out of an abundance of caution.
Even with the coaching change along with the loss of key players Jeff Teat and Jonathan Donville, Cornell started the 2022 season as if the 2020 season never ended. The Big Red started off 6-0 with key victories over No.5 Ohio State and No.11 Yale. Their four losses this season, which included three losses in the final four games of the regular season, came against opponents ranked in the Top 15 according to Inside Lacrosse. Cornell finished the regular season strong, defeating No.5 Princeton. They did however fall to Yale in the first round of the Ivy League tournament.
The Big Red have been led offensively by John Piatelli (60G, 15A) and CJ Kirst (50G, 22A) who have collectively scored at least four points in each game this season. The defense has been outstanding as well which has been led by first team All-American Gavin Adler, who led Cornell with 30 caused turnovers. Goaltender Chayse Ierlan finished second in the Ivy League with a 11.2 goals against average.
That defense has been very opportunistic and limited extra chances for opposing offenses, averaging 34.2 ground balls per game. They also don’t turn the ball over very often, they only average 15 turnovers a game. Even though they are one of the top teams in the nation in regards to turnovers, Cornell struggles to clear the ball, they are currently sitting 53rd in the nation with a .835, which tied them with Johns Hopkins. It seems like the biggest issue is getting the ball to the offensive side of the field, but once they do get the ball there, they rarely turn it over offensively.
After a two year break, Cornell has been able to shake off the rust and be one of the top lacrosse teams in the nation. During the first two games of the NCAA National Tournament, Cornell has played good defense and has been able to battle through slow starts. If they can start fast against Rutgers, The Big Red might find themselves playing on Memorial Day for the first time since 2009.