Cornell senior Rob Pannell’s final season began perfectly.
Weeks before the first game, Pannell was the No. 1 selection in the Major League Lacrosse draft. His team was ranked as one of the top-five teams in the country.
However, thing changed quickly in just the second game of the season.
In the third quarter against Army, Pannell injured his left leg and had to be carried off the field. He hasn’t played since.
When the Quakers take on the No. 4 Big Red at Franklin Field Saturday, Cornell will still be without the two-time Ivy League Player of the Year.
But don’t be fooled, the Big Red (5-1, 1-0 Ivy) are still a team to be reckoned with.
Two weeks ago, Cornell took No. 1 Virginia to overtime, losing, 9-8, and earlier this week defeated No. 8 Denver, 9-8.
“Not that much has changed with the way they run their offense,” coach Mike Murphy said. “They just inserted another player into Pannell’s role.”
Cornell’s offense centers on people moving without the ball, causing their opponents to stick with their matchups and play team defense.
In last week’s loss to Princeton, Penn (1-4, 0-1) was unable to play together defensively, and it cost them.
With Pannell’s injury, this aspect of the Red and Blue’s game will be even more important.
“It’s about focusing on more than just one guy,” senior defender Will Koshansky said. “They have a lot of good players.”
Just not as good as Pannell. Even though he’s played in just two games out of Cornell’s six, Pannell still ranks second on the team in points.
Yet, the Red have been able to remain effective in his absence. Each defensive player on Penn’s roster will have to be on his toes.
“We can’t just fly around aimlessly,” Murphy said. “We have to do everything as though there was a purpose to it.”
While Cornell has been much more balanced offensively since Pannell’s injury, junior Steve Mock has become the leader. Last year, he was second only to Pannell in goals scored. This year, he leads the team with 13 goals on the season.
Though Cornell’s offensive prowess causes teams to focus on that side of the ball, if the Quakers plan to stay in the contest, it’ll be due to mistake-free offensive play.
“Last week, we just made a lot of silly errors in the offensive end,” Murphy said.
Against a Cornell team that gives up less than eight goals per game, it will be paramount for the Quakers to score when the opportunity arises.