Cornell coach Ben DeLuca does not waste your time with cliches or coachspeak when asked to relive the moment All-American Rob Pannell went down with a foot injury.
"It was a nightmare scenario. Anybody would be lying if they told you anything else," says DeLuca. "I did not sleep at all that night and for long stretches afterwards."
While the outside world predicted gloom and doom, Cornell has not skipped a beat since losing the No. 1 overall pick in Major League Lacrosse. The Big Red is 9-1 and ranked third in the country.
"I never really noticed the air come out of the balloon because of the leadership of this senior class. They thrive on trying to prove people wrong and that has trickled down to the younger guys," adds DeLuca.
No one player has been asked to replace Pannell, as it has been all hands on deck in Ithaca as usual.
"Our philosophy is, let's put six guys on the field who are all threats", says DeLuca. "We focus on running our stuff and being disciplined. We need to make the right cut and the right move, and when those lead to a scoring opportunity we have to capitalize."
One person who has capitalized on an opportunity is junior Max Van Bourgondien. The Manhattan resident registered just three goals in his first two seasons, but now, 10 games into his junior campaign, he already has 14 to go along with 10 assists.
And his goals have not been cheapies. He sent the Virginia game into overtime with an athletic play in the final minute of regulation, had his first career hat trick in a critical overtime win against Denver and then one-upped that performance with a four-goal night against Syracuse.
"The light bulb kind of went on for Max," says Deluca. "We had a meeting with him after last season and told him what he needed to do to improve. If there is one guy who went home during the summer and really got on board it was Max."
Van Bourgondien took the message from the coaching staff to heart because he was getting antsy to contribute.
"I had a tough time just watching. I really wanted to play so there was a ton of motivation for me to put myself in a position to play."
One might not think that Manhattan is the ideal place for a college lacrosse player to take his game to the next level, but resources were not a problem for Van Bourgondien.
"It was time for me to put in extra work. I needed to get bigger and stronger so I dedicated myself to the gym. I worked some camps in the city so that allowed me to constantly have a stick in my hand and practice shooting. And I worked on my stick skills by throwing against the wall at a playground on 19th Street and Second Avenue."
All this while reverse commuting to Connecticut for a summer job with a hedge fund.
"We gave him specific and concrete goals for the offseason and he got after it," says DeLuca, "He has become one of our most dynamic guys at the midfield."
"It's very satisfying," says Van Bourgondien, "This is what I dreamed about as a kid, playing at a school like this at a high level."
Who knows maybe that wall on 19th and Second Avenue will be pretty crowded this summer.