Cornell's Pannell may cause trouble for Terps

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy,Terps,University of Maryland

Cornell senior is third

in history in points

As Maryland takes the field Sunday at Byrd Stadium for its NCAA lacrosse opener, there will be one unsettling sight -- the No. 3 jersey of one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, Cornell attack Rob Pannell.

Up Next
Cornell at Maryland
When » Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where » Byrd Stadium, College Park
TV » ESPN2

The red-shirt senior ranks third in NCAA history in points with 332 and his 193 assists are 79 more than any active player. Pannell has captured nearly every individual accolade in the sport and beyond, as he remains the lone lacrosse player ever nominated for an ESPY as male college athlete of the year. The lone hole in his resume: He has yet to win a national championship.

"Being in the position I'm in, there comes a lot of pressure," Pannell told reporters on Selection Sunday. "I'm happy to take it on."

Playing for an unseeded team, Pannell will take on a lot Sunday, as Cornell (12-3) travels to Maryland (10-3). Two weeks ago, this would have been a matchup fit for the Final Four. But the Big Red lost to Princeton in the Ivy League semifinals and the Terps fell to Virginia in the ACC tournament.

As a result, Maryland, which spent part of the season ranked No. ?1, tumbled to a No. 6 seed, while Cornell, which was ranked No. 2 or No. 3 for more than a month, tumbled all the way out of the top eight.

"We were just excited to hear our name called," Cornell coach Ben DeLuca said.

With all three of its losses by a single goal, Cornell enters with extraordinary credentials for an unseeded team, but there also are questions. The Big Red's 14-13 loss to Princeton in overtime -- a team it had thrashed 17-11 a week earlier behind Pannell (five goals, four assists) -- came last Friday. Meanwhile last weekend in College Park, Maryland recovered from its 13-6 Virginia loss with an 18-6 romp over Colgate.

As the Terrapins try to reach their third NCAA championship game in as many years under John Tillman, their first priority Sunday will be to limit the playmaking of Pannell. Maryland has two solid one-on-one options on defense in quick sophomore Goran Murray and rangy 6-5 junior Michael Ehrhardt.

"You hope that the way you start will work," Tillman said. "But you always have to have other plans in case things don't go the way you want so you're prepared."

Maryland will also have to check senior attack Steve Mock (48 goals), who is second in the nation in goals per game (3.43) and 12th in shooting (44.0 percent). Twenty-two of his tallies have come on passes from Pannell.

The offense of Cornell isn't the lone concern for Maryland. The Big Red defense is disruptive, ranking third in the nation in caused turnovers (10.0 per game). The Terps will have a major edge in the cage, however. Junior Niko Amato has saved 61.2 percent of the shots he has faced, ranking third in the NCAA.

"They can certainly score, yet you look at the other side, obviously Ben has always been an outstanding defensive coach. Cornell's always prided themselves on playing good defense," Tillman, a former defensive midfielder at Cornell, said. "We have to be prepared to play a couple different ways within the game. Whether the game is fast or slow, we have to be successful playing both tempos."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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