The Cornell Men’s Lacrosse program surprised a lot of people last season by ending up in the NCAA National Championship game against Maryland. With the stacked tournament field last season, including six Ivy League teams, Cornell ended up being the last Ivy League team standing. But with all this success last season, anything less than a national championship appearance will be considered a down year. With such high standards and expectations, could Cornell take a step back this season?
Connor Buczek had a helluva first season at his alma mater in 2022, leading the Big Red to a 10-4 record during the regular season. After losing to Yale in the opening round of the Ivy League Tournament, the Big Red came into the NCAA tournament as a No.7 seed. Cornell defeated Ohio State, Delaware, and Rutgers before losing to Maryland in the championship game.
The Big Red definitely exceeded expectations in Buzcek’s first year, but expectations are high in 2023 for the Cornell Men’s Lacrosse program returning a lot of key players while fighting in a tough Ivy League. CJ Kirst, Michael Long, and Billy Coyle are the key returners on offense. While Gavin Adler (one of the best defenders in the nation), Angelo Petrakis (had a .613 faceoff percentage in 2020 and .494 in 2022), and Chayse Ierlan (.526 save percentage) all return as well.
The Ivy League was well represented in the NCAA tournament last season and will still be a really competitive league in 2023. Currently there are six teams ranked in the preseason Top 20, with Cornell sitting the highest at No.4. Last season. Cornell came into the 2022 season ranked No.15 in the preseason polls and while they did start the year 6-0, they did lose to Army and lost to Brown, Princeton and Yale within the Ivy League. If the Ivy League is anything like last season, it will be a slugfest all spring.
Regardless of the rankings during the season, Cornell is still the national runner-up and the rest of the Ivy League will be giving the Big Red their best effort during conference play. It will be interesting to see how Cornell responds during the season while having a target on their back.
When you take a quick glance at the rest of the Top 20 teams, there will be some steep competition looking to overtake Cornell’s repertoire from last season. You have Virginia and Maryland who are obvious choices to win it all in 2023, but you also have teams like Georgetown and Notre Dame who are on a mission to get the disappointment of 2022 out of their minds. It will definitely be interesting to see how the season shakes out and where we stand when the NCAA tournament starts, but I do feel there will be even more competition at the top compared to last season. This competition will definitely make it difficult for Cornell to make it back to Championship Weekend.
Cornell comes back with a loaded team and key returners at every level. It’s no question the Big Red should be one of the top teams in the country all season long. Barring a catastrophe season, they should be in the NCAA tournament again in 2023. Most schools would consider back-to-back tournament appearances a success, but when you make it to a national championship, expectations rise going into next season. Cornell understands the expectations on their shoulders, but anything less than a championship appearance will be considered a step back from last season.