The college lacrosse world knew undefeated Cornell was good, but no one could have imagined that the Big Red would be as devastating as it was today in routing Johns Hopkins, 16-8, in the final of the NCAA tournament.
Cornell, which became the first team to repeat as champion in the seven years of the playoffs, demolished the proud Blue Jays with a comination of fast breaks on offense and series of defensive gems at the other end.
Hopkins was so outplayed that it didn't score its first goal until 27 minutes after the opening faceoff. By then, Cornell had built a 9-0 lead.
Cornell, now has won 29 straight games the last two years and has beaten Hopkins four times in a row. But this victory was especially satisfying for the Big Red because of the topsided score against one of the old of lacrosse quards. That is something and outsider like Cornell is not supposed to be able to do in this highly political sport.
"God it was sweet," said Cornell coach Richie Moran, a nonstop talker who spent half an hour after th game kissing players' mothers and inviting everyone to an early evening party.
"We felt if we came right at Hopkins and scored quickly and made them play catchup, we could break their backs," he said. "It was a game. We either would blow it at the beginning or win it. I'm glad it worked."
Cornell was even happy to see that Scott Stadium's artificial turf was hot and fast. "It must have been 100 degrees on the field, but that was great," said Moran. "The hotter the better; the better it made our fast break."
Hopkins had almost beaten Cornell in a regular-season game a month ago in Ithica, before the Big Red came from seven goals back to pull out a 12-11 victory. Moran said his team went by the scouting report too much in that contest.
"We were trying to be cute," he said. "This time, we wanted to run. We did it against Navy wand we were up, 8-0, so the team became believers."
Today, Hopkins became a believer. Led by 5-foot-9, 150-pound Eamon McEncaney, a wide receiver on the Cornell football team and a fine lacrosse playmaker, the Big Red got thi gs rolling with a goal six minutes into the first quarter.
Cornell went ahead 2-0 a minute later and then 3-0 with two minutes left in the quarter. A scuffle followed that goald, Moran diving itno a pile of players after Hopkins coach Henry Ciccarone, who was acting as peacemaker.
Although the fight was a draw, its after effects worked against Hopkins. The officials started calling the game closer and the Blue Jays were hit with two quick penalties. Cornell converted both extra-man advantages into goals for a 5-0 lead at the end of the quarter.
"I wasn't worried at 3-0 and 5-0," said Ciccarone, who had seen his team blast Maryland in similar fashion last week. "But then they never gave us a chance to get back in it. They were executing so well and they were so active. They made things happen. We were rushing things at the beginning, and we never settled down. I kept telling them, be patient, but we weren't."
Hopkins' spirit was broken when it failed to score after Cornell's first penalty early in the second period. The Blue jays started messing up simple passes and were struggling just to clear the ball out of their end. The Big Red accepted all these mistakes to increase its margin to 9-0 with 4:37 left in the half.
Frank Cutrone finally sored for Hopkins 97 seconds later to draw loud cheers from the crowd of 11,340, a tournament final record.
McEneaney, who jogged three miles this morning "to get my mind on the game," would up with three goals and five assists, while goalie Dan MacKesey broke Hopkins' heart with fine saves on the few good shots the Blue Jays got off.
"I only had one goald in the first game," McEnearned said, "so I needed a good one today. The way we all played, it just broke their backs. It was perfect."