Although Final Campaign with Cornell Lax Cut Short, PDS Alum Fletcher Enjoyed Special Career for Big Red
SEEING RED: Connor Fletcher heads upfield for the Cornell University men’s lacrosse team. Senior star midfielder and team co-captain Fletcher, a former Princeton Day School standout, tallied six goals and five assists this spring, helping Cornell go 5-0 and rise to No. 2 in the Inside Lacrosse Maverik Division I Media Poll before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fletcher was named an Inside Lacrosse/Maverik Media Honorable Mention All-American in 2020 and totaled 89 career points on 56 goals and 33 assists while starting all 50 contests for the Big Red in his four years. (Photo provided courtesy of Cornell Athletic Communications)
By Bill Alden
By early March, Connor Fletcher was headed to a dream season in his final campaign for the Cornell University men’s lacrosse team.
Star midfielder and team co-captain Fletcher, a former Princeton Day School standout, had tallied six goals and five assists, helping Cornell go 5-0 and rise to No. 2 in the Inside Lacrosse/Maverik Division I Media Poll.
“We were doing really well, we felt like we had gotten back to the kind of Cornell lacrosse that made teams in the past here be so successful,” said the 6’3, 230-pound Fletcher, who starred in ice hockey and soccer in addition to lacrosse at PDS.
“We were doing the kind of things that we thought would put us as one of the top teams in the country. We were really hitting our stride. We were really confident in the way we were playing and the team that we had.”
But then the season turned into a nightmare as the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the spring sports season in mid-March.
“It was a pretty emotional experience, there were a lot of tears and a lot of hugging,” said Fletcher, recalling the team meeting where the players found out about the cancellation.
“There wasn’t really that much to be said. We just wanted to be there for each other; making sure that we were supporting each other going forward. It was definitely an emotional moment.”
Even though the Big Red only got to play five games in 2020, the squad still experienced some big moments.
“We had a really skilled group of guys but the biggest thing that we were focusing on was basically just stripping down from offensive sets,” said Fletcher.
“We were just breaking it down to things like hustle plays. It was a lot on ground balls, blocking shots and diving for end lines when shots were going out of bounds. It was those plays that we defined our games on. If we built up from there, we knew we would be successful.”
Being one of the four team captains, Fletcher looked to set the tone for hustle plays.
“I was elected both by the players and the coaches; I had that respect from everybody on the team,” said Fletcher, a second-team All-Ivy League performer in 2019.
“It was something that I really cherish and I was proud to fill that role for my team. I have more of a lead by example style. When needed, I can be vocal and try to encourage everybody. It is the way our whole team works. One of our mottoes is that well done is better than well said. Do the work first and everybody will follow, that is the way it is. Myself and the other captains on the team believe that.”
A major highlight for Fletcher and the Cornell team came when it edged highly touted Penn State 18-17 on March 8.
“That was probably one of the more fun games I have been able to play in during my time at Cornell, playing against a team that was ranked No. 2 in the country at the time,” said Fletcher, who tallied one goal and an assist in the game.
“They were one that we had circled, losing to them the year before and being able to have such a high intensity, high scoring game. It was just incredible to see that way we went up in the beginning and then let them come back and then the way we persevered to the end. The general excitement of the ending too with the last second goal, you can’t really beat that. That was probably my favorite one this year for sure.”
In developing as a scorer over his college career, Fletcher looked to use his skills for the team’s benefit.
“Coming in, it was definitely more of a focus on myself and figuring out how I could get better as a player, whether it was shooting or dodging or anything like that,” said Fletcher, an Inside Lacrosse/Maverik Media Honorable Mention All-American in 2020 who totaled 89 career points on 56 goals and 33 assists while starting all 50 contests in his four years.
“When it came to my senior year, I was able to build off of my skills. It was how could I play to make everybody else better. So it was plays that I made to not only create success for myself but to create the overall success for our offense. That was basically the way that I progressed and I think the offense as a whole progressed over my four years at Cornell.”
Over the last four years, Fletcher became very close to his classmates. “We all live together, 13 of us are in the same house,” said Fletcher.
“There is an incredibly close bond; it has been tough being away from them already. In the coming months and next year, being away from them is going to be tough. I was actually able to head up to Ithaca to move out of my house sadly. It was kind of a sendoff of my experience in Ithaca with a couple of my classmates who were able to get back there so that was nice.”
As he finished up his senior year at home, Fletcher maintained his bonds with his teammates.
“The team has been trying to facilitate a lot of meetings, just ways for us to stay connected and keep the right mindset in the situation,” said Fletcher. “We have definitely been doing a lot of that.”
Fletcher has also been finding ways to stay in shape without being on campus.
“You have to get a little creative, trying to do stuff at this point; it is definitely something I am keeping up with just to stay busy,” said Fletcher, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Barrage of Major League Lacrosse.
“I have been using the milk jug for weights. I use the back board of my basketball court for wall ball drills. It is pushups, running and trying to find a wall anywhere I can.”
Over the next year, Fletcher will be keeping busy as he prepares to apply for medical school.
“I do have a job as a research assistant working for a sports medicine practice in New York City,” said Fletcher.
“I am currently studying for the MCAT, taking advantage of these couple of weeks and months. I want to do my research as a gap year before I go to medical school.”
Looking back on his time at Cornell, Fletcher took full advantage of the time spent with his teammates.
“The biggest thing for me was being able to make such great friends in my classmates and the rest of the guys on the team,” said Fletcher.
“The experiences that I got to have with them, both on and off the field are the biggest thing that I will take away from my experience at Cornell. The kind of people that get recruited to play lacrosse at Cornell is a special group of guys. They do a really good job of getting the right kind of dudes that are good locker room guys and really care for each other. They put the team in front of themselves; it has just been a great experience to make such longtime friends.”