NCAA Lacrosse Final Four Preview: Cornell vs. Notre Dame

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NCAA Lacrosse Final Four Preview: Cornell vs. Notre Dame
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BACKDROP

One year after suffering the most devastating loss in team history, the Cornell Big Red are back in the Final Four for the third time in four years.

After being the victim of Syracuse's lacrosse miracle in the 2009 National Championship, Coach Jeff Tambroni has constructed another winning season.

Cornell was given an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, due to the fact that they fell to Princeton in OT in the Ivy League Championship game.

However, Cornell won't have to worry about running into their fellow Ivy League foes thanks to...

…The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who upended the Tigers 8-5 in the first round of the tournament.

Notre Dame was supposed to headline the brand new Big East lacrosse conference this year along with perennial powerhouses Syracuse and Georgetown.

The Irish failed to live up to the regular season hype, posting a 7-6 record, but still squeaking into the tournament as an 11 seed.

The shoe has fit thus far for the Cinderella team from South Bend.

They've knocked off the sixth ranked Princeton Tigers, and third ranked Maryland Terrapins en route to their second Final Four appearance.

IN THE QUARTERFINALS

Cornell took care of business against an Army team that knocked off two time defending champion Syracuse in the Carrier Dome just a week before.

Army had all the makings of a miracle run to Baltimore, but Cornell showed exceptional poise against the red-hot Black Knights.

Attackman Ryan Hurley registered 4 goals and 1 assist as the Big Red dispatched The Corps in a comfortable 14-5 win.

St. Patrick's Day has long since past, but the "luck of the Irish" was in full display last weekend as Notre Dame cashed in their upset bid over No. 3 Maryland.

Thanks to a hattrick from sophomore attackman Sean Rogers, ND took an early 4-1 advantage, and let their defense do the rest of the work.

The Irish were able to sit on their early lead and close out the Terps by a final tally of 7-5.

KEY PLAYERS

The departure of 2009 Tewaaraton winner Max Seibald left holes in the Big Red's attack.

Senior attackman Ryan Hurley has filled those holes.

The third year starter has notched 57 points for himself in 2010, and has brought along young sophomore Rob Pannell quite nicely.

One of the elder statesmen on Cornell who still feels the sting of Memorial Day 2009, Hurley's leadership will be equally important as his offensive showing on Saturday if Cornell wants to get back to the Final.

For the Fighting Irish, Zach Brenneman is the anchor of the midfield unit. 

The junior from East Hampton, NY is not a flashy player who lights up the stat sheet, but a strong athlete who contributes where he can.

Brenneman also comes through in the clutch, last year as a sophomore he stuck 3 game winning goals. 

The Irish will need Brenneman's magic touch on offense, as well as his grit on defense and toughness getting after ground-balls if they want to dance into the Championship game.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

It's a battle of netminders from both ends of the spectrum between Cornell and Notre Dame.

Cornell has stuck by blue-chip freshman recruit A.J. Fiore all year long.  Like any freshman, Fiore has had his highs and lows throughout the season.

Down in South Bend, Notre Dame has one of the best goalies in the country in Scott "The Beast" Rodgers. 

Standing at a hulking 6'4'' 254lbs, seeing Rodgers in net harkens back to the good old days where you'd just take the biggest kid and throw him in net.

Rodgers led the nation in save percentage and goals against average in 2009.

The fifth year senior struggled to find his form during the regular season, but has been razor sharp in the NCAA tournament, holding Princeton and Maryland to just 5 goals apiece.

It's a classic battle of small vs. big, young vs. old, and bravado vs. experience, and it's definitely a matchup to keep your eyes on during Saturday's game.

PREDICTION

It's a classic game of "who ya got?" between Cornell and Notre Dame this weekend, because frankly, neither of these teams were supposed to be here.

Syracuse was supposed to beat Army in the first round and then exercise their recent dominance over the Big Red in the quarters.  While Notre Dame was supposed to go down to either Princeton or Maryland, both favorites over the Irish.

However, all expectations have been thrown out the window as Cornell and Notre Dame have defied their respective odds.

Slight edge goes to Cornell because they were here last year. 

They know what to expect from the huge crowd that a Final Four brings, and have a chip on their shoulder from being robbed of a title in 2009.

THE PICK

Cornell 12

Notre Dame 9

 

 

 

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