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Cornell helps spark turnaround for UVM men’s lax

Fifth-year goalie thriving for Catamounts
Fifth-year goalie thriving for Catamounts
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 10:03 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Growing up in Darien Connecticut, home of one of the best high school lacrosse programs in the country, it shouldn’t be too surprising that UVM fifth-year senior Ryan Cornell had a lacrosse stick in his hand at a young age.

“I think I started playing as soon as I could walk,” Cornell said. “You know I think three years old, four years old, I had a stick in my hand. It definitely helped coming from an area like that because you know, you’re doing it every day. You’re playing with your friends every day.”

A two-time high school All-American with undefeated state championship teams his junior and senior year, Cornell was ranked the 37th overall recruit in the country by Inside Lacrosse in 2017. It was a coup for then head coach Ryan Curtis’ staff, and Cornell stuck by his committment went Chris Feifs took over.

“The first time I came up here I was pretty young,” he said. “I was probably sophomore in hihg school and I immediately fell in love with the place. I had originally committed to Coach Curtis, started to shop around a little bit, but as soon as Coach Feifs was hired, he came to me immediately. Preached to me how much he wanted me here and I think that really gave me a sense of home and community.”

But what Cornell, and the staff, weren’t anticipating was the rise of 2020 UVM grad and college All-American Nick Washuta.

“We were very aware of who Ryan Cornell was and how high regarded he was in his recruiting class,” said assistant coach Brian Kavanagh, who works with the defense and goalies. “ don’t think Ry probably understood how good Nick was or anybody really knew how good Nick was gonna be. So him coming in potentially thinking he was gonna be a four year starter to having to wait two and a half years to really get an opportunity to play in the cage was probably a tough thing for him to overcome mentally.”

“You know, we’re both competitors, we both wanted what was best for the team, and I think that’s how we approached it every single day,” Cornell said. “And I think that’s just kinda the mindset a lot of the guys on this team bring, and I think that just stems from our coaching staff. They instill in us from the beginning of the season it’s team before self attitude.”

Cornell earned the opportunity to split time with Washuta in 2020, and since taking the reins full time last year, Cornell has thrived. The Catamount keeper has racked up America East Defensive Player of the Week honors four times so far this season. He’s third in the country in goals against average and 6th in save percentage.

“I’ve seen what he’s able to do in practice,” Kavanagh said. “We’ve all seen it for five years at this point. And we’ve all seen what he was able to do with a full season under his belt last year, we knew he was only gonna improve. Ry can hit a hot streak like nobody I’ve ever seen. And I think the biggest thing this year has just been the consistency.”

He even has a tendency to turn defense into offense. Cornell has picked up the first points of his career this season.

“I definitely like to get out and help the team as much as I can and wherever I can,” Cornell said about his exploits up field. “Whether it’s getting in the ground ball scrum or starting transition. And obviously my teammates are always in the right spots. They trust me.”

“You know, it also is a huge boost to our momentum and a huge boost to our offense to have a guy that can create at any given time if we see a ten-man ride or things like that,” said head coach Chris Feifs. “But we always get a little bit nervous when he comes out but he’s a pretty tough dude.”

And when the Cats got off to their 2-6 start this year, it was Cornell who helped to steady the ship and turn things around.

“A lot of times, that’s when teams start to slip,” Cornell said. “Guys start to point the finger. And we really just banded together and kind of worked out what wasn’t working and put in some new things that are working. So I think it’s just been sticking together and just keeping our head down and going to work every day. That one game that’s at hand, you know nothing else, try to go 1-0 every Saturday.”

Vermont will try to go 1-0 on Saturday as they visit rival Albany.

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