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Cornell's spate of one-goal losses likely sunk its NCAA tournament hopes.

NCAA Rewind: Cornell Arguably Most Dangerous Team to Miss NCAA Tournament

July 10, 2024
Patrick Stevens
Marc Piscotty

Before USA Lacrosse Magazine looks ahead to what’s to come in 2025 — look out for our NCAA Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings later this summer — our team of staff and contributors decided it was worth taking a last look at the 2024 college lacrosse season.

To do that, we’re taking a journey through 30 of the top teams in men’s and women’s lacrosse to see what went right, what went wrong and how we should feel about the season.


USA Lacrosse preseason/final ranking: No. 7/No. 13
2024 record: 9-5 (5-1 Ivy League)

What went right: CJ Kirst was (unsurprisingly) awesome, collecting 45 goals and 22 assists. Before he missed the final two games with injury, so was fellow attackman Michael Long (26 G, 34 A). That tandem — along with goalie Wyatt Knust, who bounced back from a midseason benching to turn in a stellar April — proved capable of keeping the Big Red in any game. 

Cornell ranked fourth in the country in shooting percentage (.340), and it hung 18 goals on Syracuse, 17 on Notre Dame, 16 on Denver and 15 on Princeton. The comeback victory against Syracuse on April 2 was arguably the most entering game of the season in all of Division I and was a compelling platform for Cornell’s unrelenting offense.

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What went wrong: Defense was not a strength for Cornell, which yielded 15 goals on four occasions (and won two of them). The Big Red also did not match up well with Penn, which dealt it a double-overtime loss at Franklin Field in late March and then rolled to a 13-9 victory in the Ivy League semifinals. Those two setbacks probably squeezed Cornell out of the field, but it didn’t help the Ivy’s regular season champions that Michigan won the Big Ten tournament and Georgetown claimed the Big East’s automatic bid.

Season highlight: Cornell trailed Syracuse 7-0 in the first quarter and 16-10 in the middle of the third. So to come back and win that game — with Knust coming on in the second half to make nine saves against three goals allowed, with the Orange’s lone fourth-quarter goal coming with a second to go, with Kirst depositing the game-winner late in the second overtime period — ensures it is a game that will be talked about for years so long as the series between the central New York rivals continues.

Verdict: Flip one of the one-goal losses — at Denver, at Penn, against Notre Dame on Long Island — and maybe the conversation is different and Cornell would have earned the chance to create some havoc in the NCAA tournament. 

Instead, the Big Red missed the postseason after reaching the title game in 2022 and hosting a first-round game in 2023. Cornell was arguably the most dangerous team to be excluded from the 17-team field, but that’s not a title that will warm anyone’s hearts in Ithaca.