Not much was expected from this Army lacrosse team, especially after its deflating loss to Air Force to end a four-game losing streak early this season. A run to the Patriot League Championship and an upset over No. 2 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome in the first round of the NCAA Tournament didn’t seem possible.
The fairy tale run came to an end, though, at Stony Brook’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium after Army fell to Cornell 14-5.
Cornell scored the first four goals to establish a lead they never relinquished and continually squashed any momentum Army could muster in front of a pro-Army crowd. Army took the Big Red to overtime earlier this season, but junior attackman Jeremy Boltus said he and his teammates didn’t play their best game Sunday.
“It definitely wasn’t our best performance. We got down, but that’s nothing new to us,” he said. “We rushed things and didn’t play within ourselves. We didn’t do our best to keep in the game. We took the first shot instead of the best shot and ran into a hot goaltender. Give Cornell credit — their defense played well, and they got out in transition and converted.”
Army trailed Cornell 8-3 at halftime and notched the first goal of the second half. However, the Big Red answered right back and eventually scored six unanswered goals to run away from the Black Knights.
“When we got to 8-4, they made it 9-4,” said Army coach Joe Alberici. “Any time that we were able to get one, they answered right back, and that’s a credit to them.”
Alberici returns a young squad next year including freshman attackman Garrett Thul who scored once against Cornell. Thul, though, finished the season with 41 goals and nice assists, making him the program’s most proficient freshman goal scorer. Boltus also returns along with goalie Tom Palesky, who made 11 saves in the loss to Cornell.
Army’s season ends in disappointment, but it has to go down as its most successful since a Final Four appearance in 1984 and raises expectations for next year.