Cornell: The History of a Program

by | May 11, 2011, 8:14am 0

20 Days of Nationals: Day 1

The Cornell Buds have been one of the staple colleges seen at College Nationals over the history of the USAU. The Buds came close to a title in 1992, losing to Oregon in the finals. In 2002, it was trip number 13 to nationals, out of a possible 19 official seasons. The reign of power in the region would slide to the Delawares, Queen Kingstons, and Pittsburgh. In 2007, Cornell would advance to the Metro East title game, only to lose twice, to Delaware and then Pittsburgh in the backdoor finals.

That momentum would appear to be slightly stalled at 2008 sectionals, with a loss to Carleton University on universe point in the title game. However, it was merely signs of growing team. 2010 Captain Damien Lazar recalls,   “For one, there were a lot of young and inexperienced players on the team in those years, and while the team benefited tremendously from the leadership and experience of many older players in ’07 and ’08, we weren’t quite there as a team yet” Cornell would go on to place 5th at Metro East regional, and give it’s youth a foundation to build on.

Lazar, “In ’09, as many of our younger players had become more experienced and skilled, and as many of our older players had returned for a 5th year, we were able to implement a much more structured system of play than we’d had in the past, which we ran with great success.  There were many structural and organizational changes implemented in ’09, including three new captains on the younger side of things, but what really stood out was the development of a group of players who had effectively “grown up” together as ultimate players.”

In 2009, the Buds qualified for Nationals playing arguably their best game of the season in the Metro East finals. A 8-1 halftime lead, built on spectacular hucks and layouts, would not go to waste in a finals victory over number one seeded Pittsburgh. However, things would not go so well in the rematch when both teams would meet in the prequarters at Nationals. Going into the second half down 8-7,  Cornell would be unable to break. Pittsburgh would get revenge, 15-13, ending the Buds season.

I was lucky enough to be in the crowd for this one

Heading into 2010, Cornell had taken advantage of a a plethora of talented players. “Such large numbers of experienced players in ’09 also enabled us to really develop our B team, the Shake, from which we were then able to draw players the following year.” With a large returning core, Cornell was looking likely to return to Nationals for the second straight year. Another upset in the finals over Pittsburgh put Cornell in pool A in Madison. With Oregon not living up to its expectations, the Buds would win the pool with a come from behind victory on Georgia. The game of the year would follow, with a 17-16 over Michigan in the quarter finals, and one of the most dramatic layouts I’ve ever seen below. The surprise run would come to end with a loss to the eventual champions Florida.

A storied program has managed to once again return while losing 10 out of 14 starters from the previous year, but also help from a weakened region. While this may be a relative down year for Cornell, you can still write down that they have qualified for 16 out of the last 27 nationals and they have continued a tradition that can only help it’s younger players in the coming years.


Photo from Andrew Davis


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