Conventional wisdom suggests that No. 3 Cornell’s bid for its first national championship since 1977 took a serious blow with the news on Tuesday from InsideLacrosse.com that senior attackman Rob Pannell could miss as much as six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot.
But don’t count on the Big Red players falling into that line of thinking.
“We’re disappointed in the loss, but I think we’re also excited as a group because we can show everyone what we do have,” junior defenseman Jason Noble said. “All the talk the past couple years has been about Rob and how he leads this team. So we want to show everybody that we’re a team of 47 players and not just one individual. So I think we’re really excited about showing everybody what we have to offer.”
Then again, the notion that Pannell’s absence could hurt is not such a far-fetched idea. Pannell, the reigning United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s Player of the Year and a two-time Attackman of the Year, led the offense in assists (nine) and points (16) this season and has registered 252 points on 103 goals and 149 assists in his career.
“Rob is the best player I’ve ever played with,” said junior attackman Connor English, a transfer from Virginia. “He can not only play, but he’s a leader and a great guy. So we all definitely miss him, but the other guys haven’t really gotten down. Our team is very deep, and we just know that if somebody goes down, there’s somebody else who can step in. All of us collectively have to step up and do our jobs.”
The injury to Pannell opens the door for English to join senior Steve Mock and freshman Matt Donovan as starters. English recorded two goals and three assists in Tuesday’s 19-4 rout of Canisius – his first career start at Cornell.
“I think he’s going to be asked to step in a little sooner than any of us would have anticipated, but he’s done a great job of learning our system and buying into our system all the way and forming some chemistry with other guys like Matt Donovan and Steve Mock,” coach Ben DeLuca said. “So we’re excited to see the development of Connor English, knowing that it’s going to be a work in progress for a quite a while.”