The proud winners of the University of Kentucky Nike Soccer Classic are the first to admit that though it is a great start, this is just the beginning.
The Red (2-0) traveled to Lexington, Ky., to play in a tournament with the University of Kentucky and IUPUI. Friday night, Cornell took down Kentucky with a 2-0 win, before finishing off the weekend with a 4-1 triumph over IUPUI.
Head coach Bryan Scales expressed cautious praise for the team’s performance.
“Both games presented different challenges to us, and [the team] responded to them well,” Scales said. “The Kentucky game was a very direct, high-tempo game in front of a good crowd. Our guys are used to that type of environment from the Ivy League games so they didn’t seem fazed by it at all, which was good to see.”
Against Kentucky, junior David Browning buried a header in the back of the net to start the Red in the right direction. Though Cornell was consistently solid in the defensive end last year, its offense has only recently showcased its talents. The Red put up six goals this past weekend, a feat it didn’t achieve until Oct. 13 (six games) last season. For the season last year, Cornell netted only 10 goals.
Browning was quick to compliment the defensive players.
“I thought our defense was excellent,” he said. “We are not the tallest of teams and as we were lining up to start Friday’s match, Kentucky must have been thinking they could boss us around in the air. But we fought them for every ball, and our center back pairing of [junior] Joe [Yonga] and [junior] Miyad [Movassaghi] was excellent. While Kentucky had a fair share of the ball, Joe and Miyad managed to stop them from having any really clear-cut chances. Another positive we can take from this weekend is that we did all of this without [senior] Kyle [Lynch], who over the last few years has been an absolute rock in the back. So we can also look forward to his imminent return.”
On Sunday, the Red defeated IUPUI by a score of 4-1. Senior Brian Kuritsky’s hat trick along with a goal by junior Dana Flanders put the Red at an impressive six-goal tournament total. Cornell’s win, combined with Kentucky’s victory over UNC-Ashville, secured the tournament title.
The Red had four different people score goals. Browning attributed the team’s well-rounded contribution to the players’ familiarity with one another’s playing style. The team has 16 upperclassmen who have grown accustomed to playing together.
“For the first time since I’ve been at Cornell, our forward line really began to gel,” Browning said. “What pleased me the most about the weekend was on top of Kuritzky’s phenomenal hat trick, each of our other starting strikers scored. A lot of this improvement has simply been due to the fact that the more time you spend playing with your teammates, the better you understand their habits.”
Coach Scales remains hesitant, yet hopeful.
“Overall, the weekend was very important for us as a group,” he said. “We won the title, had goals from four different guys and kept things tight defensively. We also had a number of guys come off the bench to do well — that will be very important for us as we move forward. It was a good start to the season, but it is only a start. There are still plenty of things that we need to improve on individually and collectively to become a good team and the players understand this as we begin to prepare for our next game.”