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Smithtown's Rob Pannell drives Cornell past Princeton

Cornell senior attack Rob Pannell, graduate of Smithtown

Cornell senior attack Rob Pannell, graduate of Smithtown West. Credit: Cornell University

There may not have been a Victor Cruz signing, but there was a salsa sighting Saturday at MetLife Stadium.

Rob Pannell, the former Smithtown West and current Cornell star, showed off the dance moves made famous by the Giants' wide receiver. After Pannell's second consecutive unassisted goal in the second quarter, he flashed his inner Cruz, on the same turf that Cruz has turned into his own personal salsa studio.

"I like to think I'm a good dancer. People tell me I'm a good dancer," Pannell said with a laugh after he showed far better moves with the ball in his stick than he did in celebrating a huge game.

Pannell played dodge ball all game, with five unassisted goals on a variety of spin dodges, split dodges, swim dodges, cutbacks and stutter-steps. He also had four assists as No. 4 Cornell defeated No. 12 Princeton, 17-11, in the first game of the Big City Classic men's lacrosse extravaganza.

"I haven't played as well as I've liked. I changed my game a little after my injury," Pannell said of the badly broken foot he suffered early last season that caused him to sit out the rest of his senior year and return this spring after being granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA. "I'm not practicing as much. My confidence was lacking a little the past couple of games."

It should be soaring now after Pannell turned MetLife Stadium into Dodge City with a spectacular performance for the Big Red (11-2), the top seed for next weekend's Ivy League Tournament. Steve Mock (Huntington) had four goals and an assist for Cornell. Mike MacDonald led Princeton (8-4) with four goals. Tom Schreiber, the former St. Anthony's star, had two goals and an assist, his 14th straight game with at least three points.

"This game was great for my confidence and for our team," said Pannell, who set up two of Mock's goals and has assists on 43 of Mock's 115 career goals. "My biggest fear is letting these guys down. But I'm getting back to my old ways."

Those ways include slick passing and brilliant one-on-one moves. The latter were especially on display Saturday. Pannell's three first-half goals, when the Big Red built a 9-3 lead, all started with dodges from behind the cage and ended with well-placed shots.

When Princeton scored three straight in the third quarter to make it 10-6, Pannell responded with a dazzling double move and shot into the narrowest of windows. He did it again in the fourth quarter, after a perimeter blast by Schreiber made it 13-9.

"I've seen flashes of Rob, and what he's done in the past," Cornell coach Ben DeLuca said. "But I was looking for more consistency and more aggressiveness. We asked him to share the ball early, but now we want him to be more assertive. That was the plan for the season: to prepare him for this stretch run."

The ultimate goal for Cornell is a trip to the Final Four.

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