The two best players in college lacrosse will line up against each other on Saturday in Ithaca, N.Y., as Rob Pannell and No. 5 Cornell host Peter Baum and No. 9 Colgate.
"It's going to be fun, it's going to be great for the fans," said Pannell. "Peter Baum is a very exciting player to watch, and I like to think I am fun to watch. The closer the game is, it will come down to the two of us."
Both coaches are trying to downplay the individual matchup -- comparing it more to great quarterbacks who aren't on the field at the same time -- but the players don't mind hyping it up a bit.
"I'd be lying if I said that was something I wasn't thinking about," said Baum, "I'm a competitor, and Rob is as competitive as it gets, so I am sure he is feeling the same way."
"No doubt we are going to be seeing who's doing what and how many points each other has, that's natural," said Pannell. "We both want to make sure we get out of there with a win, but there will be a little of that one-on-one."
Pannell and Baum have never been on the same field for a college lacrosse game, but they were teammates this summer at the Vail Shootout. They developed a mutual respect and admiration for each other.
"He is an amazing talent on the field, being side-by-side was pretty special," said Pannell. "Peter is the best shooter I have ever played with, and it's very clear to see why he's had the success he's had."
"It was a lot of fun playing with Rob," said Baum. "I've watched him on TV so many times and he loves to carry the ball and he is awesome at finding the open man, so it allowed me to just float off ball and finish."
The duo will bring a video game-esque 455 career points with them to Schoellkopf Field, but they have put up those numbers with contrasting styles.
"They are two very dynamic guys, just dynamic in different ways," said Colgate head coach Mike Murphy. "If you look at it and want to label them, Rob is the quintessential attackman and Peter is more of a midfielder. Rob has always been a playmaker. Peter's game has evolved into that."
There is one pretty significant similarity though, and that is their ability to make their teammates better by their play and their leadership.
"The respect his teammates have for Rob is palpable, you can feel it in practice," Cornell head coach Ben DeLuca said. "His return elevated everybody's awareness about how to prepare and how to compete."
"Pete works so hard and is such a competitor that his teammates don't want to let him down," Murphy said. "He makes the other guys play harder and want to rise to the occasion."
At the beginning of the 2012 season, Pannell was the favorite to win the Tewaarton Trophy as the best player in the country. Then he injured his foot in the second game of the year and was out for the season. Baum emerged with a breakout campaign of 67 goals and 30 assists and won the award.
Both players insist that the Tewaarton is the last thing on their minds, but Pannell has devised an unorthodox plan for the Big Red to slow Baum down on Saturday.
"The other day at practice, I told coach that maybe I should grab a long pole and go down there and guard Baum one-on-one. He just laughed and walked away."
The coach didn't take the idea seriously, but the fans wouldn't mind at all.