A year ago last weekend, a series of events and circumstances converged to make for a truly surreal sporting event. Richie Moran – Cornell's retired Hall of Fame coach, who led the Big Red to three national titles – had been battling end-stage kidney disease, and he held on to see his grandson, Ryan Sposito, a midfielder for the Army Black Knights, take the field against Cornell. Ryan – who grew up around the stadium, idolizing the great Cornell players of the past - had the game of his life, scoring three goals over a span of five minutes in a convincing win by the Cadets. We all knew it would be the last game Richie would see, and he passed the following weekend. Compounding the Moran family's heartbreak, Pat Moran – Richie’s wife of 61 years – passed eight months later, and none of us had any clue that the Army game would be her last as well.
Sentimentality has its place, but when Cornell traveled to West Point on Saturday, the only thing on the team's collective mind was to come away with a win. Cornell was 8-2 going into the contest, Army was 9-1, and the teams were both ranked in the Top 10. As if to continue the fairy-tale script, Sposito scored Army's first goal, but at the end of the day, Cornell would pull out an 11-10 thriller, leaving both teams at 9-2.
Opposing teams are accustomed to stopping Cornell's well-known, high-powered scorers like C.J. Kirst and Billy Coyle, but the Black Knights were caught a bit off-guard by the performance of Cornell's Michael Long. In only his third game of the year, Long – a senior attackman - scored a hat trick and added two assists to lead the Big Red to the big win.
Cornell will hit the road again next weekend to take on Dartmouth, but the following weekend will be a very special one of the Cornell Lacrosse family. At 10 am - two hours prior to the big Ivy match up against the Princeton Tigers - another plaque will be added to the wall adjacent to Schoellkopf Field. Backing up... every September 11th from 2002 to 2021, Richie Moran would make the trip up to Schoellkopf to hang a wreath next to the plaque honoring Eamon McEneaney, the three-time All American who led the Big Red to two national titles in 1976 and 1977. Eamon died in the attack on the World Trade Center, and his death hit Richie hard. Richie had known Eamon since the feisty redhead was a nine-year-old pit bull of a lacrosse player, and everyone knew that whichever college was lucky enough to land him would be a force in the collegiate lacrosse world. Eamon did his part, kept his grades up, then came to Cornell and helped Richie make history. The program's 42-game win streak remains the NCAA Division 1 record, and no team has come close.
On Saturday, April 29th, at 10 am, Richie's memorial plaque will be placed near Eamon's. Also honored on the wall are Jay Gallagher – who played for and coached with Richie – and George Boiardi, the Cornell player who tragically died after being hit in the chest with a ball during a game in 2004. It will be a very emotional day, and many former Big Red greats will be there to honor their coach, friend and mentor. I accompanied Richie to hang the wreath on numerous September 11ths, and I know how proud he would be to be on that wall with a group of young men he loved like they were his own sons. Should any of our readers elect to attend, I will ask you in advance to forgive me if I am a little too choked up to be chatty. Give me a few minutes, and I'll share some Richie stories and some bad jokes. It is, I am sure, what he would want.
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