Unseeded but not quite an underdog, Cornell heads to Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday in search of its first berth in the NCAA men's lacrosse title game since 2009.
The Big Red fell in the Ivy League semifinals before rolling to two NCAA tournament wins over Maryland and Ohio State by a combined score of 32-14. Coach Ben DeLuca said he's not quite sure if the winning margins will be an advantage in the final four.
"We're coming in with a great amount of confidence and we draw upon the experience we had throughout the season," DeLuca said.
Cornell (14-3) plays seventh-seeded Duke (14-5) at 2:30 p.m., followed by top-seeded Syracuse against No. 4 Denver at 5. The winners will meet in Monday's final.
The Big Red won six of their last seven regular-season games before stumbling in the Ivy League tournament. The 14-13 loss to Princeton sealed Cornell's fate as one of the NCAA tournament's eight unseeded teams. The Big Red are the last unseeded entry remaining.
"We're squarely the underdog," said DeLuca. "And we're OK with that role or that moniker."
Rob Pannell, the Ivy's first three-time player of the year, leads Cornell with 95 points (42 goals, 53 assists). He had six assists in Saturday's 16-6 win over Ohio State in the quarterfinals.
The senior attack returned for a fifth season after he broke his left foot early in the 2012 campaign. He needs six more points to tie the NCAA career record of 353. "He's been wonderful to watch," DeLuca said.
"A lot of people just feel that he's a talented individual and he goes out there and makes great plays," DeLuca said. "But very few people see the preparation he puts in and the training he puts in."
Pannell is joined by Steve Mock, who has a team-high 59 goals this season.
For Pannell and Mock to continue their success, Cornell will need to quell Duke's dominance in the faceoff. Duke's Brendan Fowler has won 65.7 percent of his faceoffs, and DeLuca said he is the best in the nation. Doug Tesoriero, Cornell's faceoff man, has won 59.2 percent of his faceoffs.
DeLuca said the Big Red continue to approach the faceoff with a "team-first mentality" as they try to make the play a "three-on-three scrum" by getting the wings involved.
Here are the local players competing in the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse semifinals on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Duke will play Cornell at 2:30 p.m., and Syracuse will face Denver at 5.
Bill Conners, senior, defense (Malvern Prep)
Will Haus, sophomore, goalie ( Palmyra)
Brian Dailey, sophomore, midfield (Conestoga)
Jamie Ikeda, freshman, defense (Conestoga)
Henry Lobb, junior, defense (Malvern Prep)
Tanner Scott, sophomore, midfield (Conestoga)
Dan Wigrizer, senior, goalie (Haverford School)
Jordan Wolf, junior, attack (Lower Merion)
Assistant coach Matt Kerwick (former Penn assistant)
Mike Bronzino, senior, defense (Conestoga)
Joey Gigantiello, freshman, goalie (St. Augustine Prep)
Sean Snodgrass, senior, goalie (Hill School)
Matthew Lerman, junior, goalkeeper (Episcopal)
Bobby Tait, freshman, defense (Germantown Academy)
Matt Walters, sophomore, midfield (Haverford School)
Lacrosse Central for men's and women's tournaments. www.inquirer.com/ncaalax