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May 5, 2011

Men's Lacrosse Tournament Preview

2011 Ivy League Men's Lacrosse Tournament Central

Complete Men's Lacrosse Weekly Release

PRINCETON, N.J. -- After an exciting and dramatic season of Ivy League men's lacrosse, Cornell, Penn, Harvard and Yale converge on Ithaca N.Y., on May 6 and 8 to play in the second Ivy League Men's Lacrosse Tournament. There is a lot on the line for the four teams, as the tournament champion will earn the League's automatic bid to the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship.

Tournament Schedule:
Friday, May 6
Semifinal 1: #3 Harvard vs. #2 Penn, 5 pm | Live Stats | Live Video on ESPN3.com
ESPN3.com

Semifinal 2: #4 Yale at #1 Cornell, 8 pm | Live Stats | Live Video on ESPN3.com
ESPN3.com

Sunday, May 8
Championship Game, Noon | Live Stats | Live Video on ESPN3.com
ESPNU

Cornell enters the tournament as the top seed after posting a 6-0 record in Ivy play en route to capturing the 2011 regular-season title. It marked the ninth consecutive year the Big Red has earned at least a share of the Ivy title and the 16th time Cornell has posted an undefeated Ivy League season.

While Cornell has been in high-scoring form this season, its outright title was not clinched until the second-to-last weekend of play and four of its six League wins came by two goals or less, including a 13-12 overtime win over Penn on March 26.

Leading the charge for the Big Red offense, which has averaged a League-best 13.67 goals per game in Ivy play, is junior attackman and 2011 Tewaarton final-25 nominee Rob Pannell. The junior All-American racked up a staggering 71 points throughout the regular season on 34 goals and 37 assists and enters the weekend leading the nation in points (5.46) and assists (2.85) per game. But there is more to the Big Red offense than just Panell. Steve Mock (27), Roy Lang (22) and David Lau (22) have all topped the 20-goal plateau and come through with important goals along the way, including four game-winning goals from Lang.

Cornell enters the tournament on an eight-game winning streak that includes wins over four ranked opponents. Headlining the list was an 11-6 dismantling of then top-ranked Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on April 12, which handed the Orange its first loss of the season and its first regular-season home loss since 2009.

Looking to its semifinal matchup, Cornell recorded a 10-8 win over Yale on March 19 in the teams' regular season meeting. Mock was the offensive star on that day as he netted four goals in the win. AJ Fiore (45:00) and Andrew West (15:00) both saw time in the Big Red cage and combined for 14 saves.

Penn, the second seed, is making its first Ivy tournament appearance after placing second in the League standings with a 4-2 record, its best Ivy mark since also going 4-2 in 2006 and its best finish since also finishing second in 1989. After recording a 7-3 season-opening win over now No. 8/10 Duke, the Quakers went on to record Ivy wins over Princeton, Yale, Brown and Dartmouth. The win against Princeton was notable in that it marked the Quakers first triumph over the Tigers since 1989.

Senior Al Kohart, who has 22 goals on the year, has lead Penn's goal-scoring efforts, while senior attackman Corey Winkoff paces the Penn offense as his 26 assists and 34 points lead the team.

With a balanced attack led by seniors Kohart and Winkoff, the Quakers get to opponents with aggressive defense – leading the League in caused turnovers per Ivy game – and strong goaltending. Will Koshansky ranks third in the nation with 3.23 caused turnovers per game and freshman Brian Feeney and his 7.56 goals against average has provided the type of goalkeeping that can keep the Quakers in any game.

Penn has the added benefit of knowing what it is like to play in close games as seven of its 13 games have been decided by two goals or fewer, including four games that reached overtime. Penn went 2-2 in those overtime contests, with freshman Drew Belinsky providing the game winner in overtime wins over Yale (10-9 in triple ot) and Harvard (7-6 in double ot).

Aside from Belinsky's two goals against Harvard in the teams' first meeting on April 16, Feeney made nine saves and freshman Maxx Meyer picked up six ground balls and caused two turnovers to lead Penn to the win.

The race for the final 2011 Ivy tournament berth – and hopes at the League's automatic NCAA Championship bid – once again came down to the final day of play with Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton harboring designs on the final spot. In the end, Harvard pulled away from Yale to record a 9-5 win, filling out the list of tournament invitees and claiming the third seed in the process. The Crimson tied with Yale for third with a 3-3 Ivy record but won the head-to-head matchup.  

Harvard, which is also appearing in the tournament for the first time, has won three of its last four games. On the season, the Crimson has got it done by winning face-offs and firing away on the offensive end. The Crimson holds the second best win percentage in League games from the face-off "X" at .544 and average 9.17 goals per Ivy contest.

The Crimson attack boasts three players who have netted at least 18 goals, including Jeff Cohen (28), Dean Gibbons (27) and Kevin Vaughan (18). Gibbons has also added 26 assists for an impressive 53 points on the season. Harvard's defensive efforts are backboned by sophomore goalie Harry Kreiger, who started all 14 games for Harvard en route to posting a .542 save percentage while making 148 saves, including 16 in the decisive win over Yale.

The Crimson face Penn in the first semifinal and will be looking to avenge the 7-6 double overtime loss it suffered in their previous meeting. While the game was a defensive battle, Vaughan was able to get two shots past Feeney for two goals, while Gibbons added a goal and an assist. Kreiger made 10 saves in that losing effort.

Yale returns to the Ivy League Tournament for the second-consecutive season, meaning only the Bulldogs and Big Red have made both the 2010 and 2011 editions of the Ivy Tournament. Yale will be looking to build upon the experience it gained last year when it narrowly fell to Princeton, 7-6, in the first semifinal game. This year, the Bulldogs' 3-3 mark in League play was good enough to tie Harvard for third place and earn the fourth seed in the tournament field.

After opening the season on a four-game, non-conference winning streak, Yale knocked-off Princeton, Dartmouth and Brown in Ivy play. The Bulldogs enter the tournament winners of five of their last six games, including a 13-8 win at Georgetown.

A team that is built on winning face-offs, turning other teams over and limiting quality scoring chances has resulted in a season in which Yale has recorded a League-best .650 winning percentage from the face-off "X" and a league-low 7.22 goals against average in all games played. Senior goalie Johnathan Falcone has been a big part of that defensive prowess, starting all 13 games while posting a 6.99 goals against average – the seventh lowest mark in the nation.

Couple Yale's defensive strengths with the potent dual attack threat of Matt Gibson and Brian Douglass and it is easy to see why Yale has consistently been ranked in the nation's top-20 all season. Douglass leads the team with 28 goals, while Gibson is second with 17. Each player has proved just as capable of distributing the ball. Douglass checks in with 14 assists and Gibson with 16.

The Bulldogs will need their offense and defense to be clicking in its semifinal matchup with Cornell. When the Big Red downed Yale 10-8 on March 19, the game was tied 3-3 midway through the second quarter. But then Cornell built leads of 7-4 and 10-6 before Yale scored the game's final two goals to make it 10-8.  While Cornell was able to keep Gibson and Douglass off the board, junior Greg Mahony took advantage and netted three goals to lead the Yale offense. In net, Falcone made 10 saves.