McMonagle, Mitchell lead Cornell past Towson
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Seeing was believing for Towson coach Tony Seaman.
The NCAA men's lacrosse tournament begins this weekend with first-round games at campus sites. Quarterfinal doubleheaders will be played at Princeton University and the U.S. Naval Academy, with the championships Memorial Day weekend in Baltimore. Bracket
Goalie Matt McMonagle tied his career high with 19 saves, David Mitchell scored five goals, and top-ranked Cornell beat Towson 14-6 on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament.
While Mitchell was scoring three goals to key a five-goal spurt in the first quarter, McMonagle was making one dazzling save after another, holding the Tigers off the board until early in the second.
"That kid in the goal gave us some problems. He was super, and we had some good opportunities," Seaman said. "I had no idea how many saves he had. I just knew there were a lot of them. I had the angle on some of them that I found hard to believe."
The Big Red (14-0), the lone unbeaten in the nation, face either fifth-seeded Albany (14-2) or Loyola (7-5) in the quarterfinals next weekend at Princeton. The Loyola-Albany first-round game is Sunday.
Cornell is seeded fourth despite its unblemished record, which includes a 7-6 road victory over top-seeded Duke. Cornell is striving to match the unbeaten 1977 Big Red squad that Eamon McEneaney led to the school's third national title.
"I can see why they're undefeated. That doubles what anybody else did," said Seaman, whose Tigers' worst loss this season was 13-9 at Virginia. "They're right up there."
For McMonagle, who has a school-record 44 victories, it was a day of redemption. Two years ago, in the first meeting between the teams, the Tigers scored 11 goals against him.
"For me personally, it was a great opportunity because I watched the game from two years ago and I did not play my best in that game," McMonagle said. "I wanted to come out and play a little better."
Cornell, the highest-scoring team in the nation at just over 14 goals per game, jumped to a 5-0 lead after one quarter, withstood three man-up goals in the second by Towson (9-7), the regular season champion of the Colonial Athletic Association, and established a commanding 8-3 halftime edge.
Towson lost 12-11 at home in that first-round matchup two years ago on Brian Clayton's goal with 11 seconds left in regulation. That game featured seven ties, five lead changes, and a 102-minute lightning delay.
On this day at Schoellkopf Field, the only tie was prior to the opening faceoff, and the only delay was in the Tigers' attack, thanks to McMonagle, who had 10 stops by halftime.
"Six of their first eight goals were second chances," Seaman lamented. "We gave them the ball back six times and he [Mitchell] killed us in the first quarter. You can't give a team like this second chances. They're a difficult team to guard. You have to figure out your poison."
Mitchell scored his team-leading 35th goal of the season from in front of the cage 4:13 into the game to give Cornell a 1-0 lead and Clayton made it 2-0 at 9:05 on a point-blank shot past Towson goalie Matt Antol from the left side of the goal.
Antol, who had registered double-digit saves nine times in his first season as the Tigers starter, made only three stops before being replaced by Billy Sadtler to start the second half.
Mitchell notched his second goal at 10:41. Less than a minute after McMonagle made a nice save on Towson attackman Timmy Andre in front of the Cornell cage, Mitchell scored off a feed from Ethan Vedder.
Max Seibald gave the Big Red a 5-0 lead with a man-up goal, faking around midfielder Kyle Smedley and beating Antol from in close with 46 seconds left in the period.
Towson, which scored just two even-strength goals and was 5-for-7 on man-up situations, took advantage of three penalties against the Big Red and rallied to within 6-3 at 7:27 of the second on freshman midfielder Cryder DiPietro's second goal of the quarter. McMonagle made a nice initial save on DiPietro, but he scored on a head-high shot off the rebound.
"We had the shots, we had the chances," said Bobby Griebe, who had one goal and three assists to lead Towson. "It was pretty frustrating."
Goals by Romeo Romero and Casey Lewis just over three minutes apart restored the Big Red's five-goal lead heading into the break.
Eric Pittard had two goals and two assists, and McMonagle registered seven saves in the third to lead a 4-1 Cornell surge and give the Big Red a 12-4 lead heading into the final quarter.
"You tend to take it for granted a little bit, maybe because he's been so good all year," Cornell coach Jeff Tambroni said of McMonagle. "He's set the bar so high."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press