Men’s soccer head coach Bryan Scales sat in his office chair, searching around as he tried to come up with the word he wanted to use to describe his team this year. But the appropriate adjective eluded him.
“This team has a different personality than some teams we’ve had in the past,” he noted. “They’re young, they’re enthusiastic.”
He paused for a moment.
“I keep coming back to the word excitable, but that’s not the word I want to use.”
Dynamic. Young. Enthusiastic. All are good words, but few really scrape away at the layers and give you the peek inside you’re looking for.
Gone is the play of defenders Adam Brown ’01 and David Briefel ’01. Gone is the deft scoring touch of scoring-leader Adam Skumawitz ’01 or the incomparable ability to ignite that Richard Stimpson ’01 brought to the team. These were huge losses, yet through it all Scales just smiles about his new squad. It’s pretty easy to imagine the former defender smiling a lot when he talks about this new group.
While the Cornell soccer team of 2000 did put on quite a show, lighting up the scoreboard 31 times, it also allowed 34 balls to enter its own nets. But those numbers suggest that a certain defensive loving coach was probably not all that happy.
“We scored 30-something goals last year, but we gave up 30-something,” Scales noted. “That’s why we were 8-9.”
This year is different. The team has already posted two shutouts in three games. Last year the squad managed only four shutouts.
This year’s team has already won a game 1-0, something last year’s group couldn’t pull off until October 28th.
“Good teams are built from the back forward,” the coach said. “I would say the guys we have in the back, our starting back four, are very comfortable with their roles — defending, breaking up plays.”
Those back four, junior captain Liam Hoban, senior Nick Haigh, sophomore Evan Wiener and freshman Scott Palguta, are some of the only guys on the team that Scales is ready to pencil in just about every week.
Haigh will be the left back, having started every game the last two years at that position.
There may be no more steadying influence on the entire team than the lone captain, Hoban.
“Liam exhibits all of the characteristics of a good leader,” Scales says. “He’s a coach on the field for us already and I think he enjoys that role.”
Behind the back four is junior goalkeeper Doug Allan. He started five games for the Red last season, more than any other keeper on the team. He will be called upon often to keep the team in tight games.
The midfield will be open to a number of players, and plenty of guys will get significant time.
Sophomore Ian Pilarski and classmate Arturo Solis will certainly see a lot of minutes. Junior Alex Polyezos started nine of the 10 games he played in last year and should get a number of starts this year as well.
Juniors Kevin London and Scott Benowicz, and senior Matt Eldridge will get minutes, too.
In the front, the Red will be looking to replace the 43 total points provided by Skumawitz and Stimpson. The weapon will be senior Ted Papadopoulos. Helping him will be sophomore Doug Charton and sophomore Colin Nevison.
You do get the feeling, despite the fact that they are indescribable, that this team does have something special this year. The huge fan-base the team has garnered certainly gets it. That clich