Pre-Series Record: 11-6 Series Record: 14-2
End of Season Standing: 3T at College Championships, eliminated in Semifinal (8-15 to Florida).
Coach: Colin Gottlieb
With 15 Nationals appearances since 1984, Cornell is one of the most storied programs in college ultimate. After a seven year absence from the Big Show, the Buds began a revival in 2009, qualifying for pre-Quarters in Columbus and narrowly losing a 13-15 thriller to Metro East Region rival Pittsburgh.
In 2010, the Buds continued their return to prominence, posting wins against Georgia Tech, Virginia, and San Diego State. More importantly, they saved their best ultimate for the Series, defeating Pitt in the Metro East title game for the second year in a row and coming into Nationals as the 8th seed overall. After a close loss to Oregon, the Buds found themselves in a situation they had faced twice already in 2010: down 5 to Georgia. For the third time on the year, Cornell rallied for the win, defeating Jojah 15-13. The comeback would spark a run through the rest of the tournament, as the Buds rode a team-first mentality and a “something to prove” attitude to a 17-16 win over Michigan and a spot in the National Semifinals. Cornell’s 2010 run ended with an 8-15 loss to eventual champions Florida where, like the rest of the country, the Buds could not stop Brodie Smith and the Gator deep game.
Roster Turnover and Offseason Club Experience:
Cornell’s turnover is noticeable. The Buds lost 10 of last year’s 14 starters, including First Team All-Region players Art Shull and Jon Hirschberger, Second Team members Dan Brager, Ethan Pollack and Andrew Ji, and emotional leader Damien Lazar. Schull and Hirschberger were the focus of Cornell’s split stack offense; Brager was a quick handler with low break throws and a knack for making layout grabs that kept possession; the 6’6″ Pollack was a deep specialist; and Ji was a fast, smothering defender. With each of these players’ departures, this year’s Cornell squad has big shoes to fill.
Cornell does return some key players from last year, including defensive handlers Bo Li and captain Brian Grundy. Cornell’s other two captains, Alex Kadesch and Neil Butler, are the team’s top offensive cutters, and they will look to build a new unit with strong sophomores Nick Thompson and Adam “Tweet” Shih.
Also returning for Cornell is second-year coach Colin Gottlieb. A former Colorado coach and member of Johnny Bravo, Gottlieb will continue to bring a presence that has, according to Carnell’s captains, “done wonders over the past two years.” Gottlieb leeds one practice per week and adds insight on strategy and fundamentals.
While fewer Buds played club ultimate in 2010 than in years past, Kadesch suited up for Club National Quarterfinalist Southpaw while Grundy and a number of others played with Upstate New York mixed team Bermuda.
While the team’s cutting height and deep game were immediately noticeable, a key element of Cornell’s success last year was strong handler play on both sides of the disc. Led by Brager, Lazar, and Garrett Bernstein, Cornell’s handlers were a group that dumped and swung the disc with precision, cut up line well, and rarely forced the issue if there was nothing open upfield, all features that proved especially lethal for a Buds defensive offense that was content to take advantage of impatience and grind opponents down. Downfield, Cornell’s split stack opened up a lot of space in the middle of the field, giving handlers a large margin of error when throwing to a streaking cutter.
Defensively, Cornell showed opponents a steady mix of man defense and zone depending on both conditions and match-ups. The Buds were great at clogging open throwing lanes with quick poaches, and they consistently shut off around break throws with strong marks. The team’s height was a strong deterrent of both deep throws and throws through the zone’s cup. The Buds’ handler defenders are not afraid of physical contact while fighting to prevent cuts up line.
Cornell attended UMassacre and Huck a Hunk O’Burning Pumpkin. Results were varied, and the team focused on even playing time and individual improvement in an effort to plug holes left by 2010’s departures.
Even with its departures, it is safe to say that no team is more of a lock to return to Nationals than Cornell. Pittsburgh is now gone from the Metro East, as is the most recent challenger after that, Delaware. Cornell’s real test will be to remain a title contender while going virtually unchallenged at Regionals. In preparation, the Buds will be attending Florida Warm-Up and College Easterns, each of which will be packed with recent Nationals qualifiers and 2011 contenders.
Glancing back at 2010, there is a lot to live up to for this year’s Cornell squad. No longer equipped with such overpowering athleticism and experience, the Buds are working to become quicker and more possession-oriented on offense while continuing to place a focus on marks and physicality on defense. With Nationals virtually guaranteed, Cornell’s success hangs in how younger players develop in new roles, as well as how they balance the luxury of extra preparation time with the dangerous potential to become comfortable in the Metro East.