Maybe it was the emotion of Senior Night — a Berman Field send-off for the 10 seniors of the men’s soccer team — or maybe it was the adrenaline the athletes got from facing a top team like Dartmouth. Whatever the reason, the Red upped the intensity in its last home game of the season, intensity not reflected in the loss’s final score of 5-2.
“Dartmouth is a very good team and they deserved to win,” said head coach Bryan Scales, “but I also give our guys credit for showing up tonight and competing like crazy. They got it back to 3-2, [we were] starting to get some bodies forward to try to equalize and ended up giving up the fourth goal.”
“I can’t be disappointed with the effort,” Scales added. “The guys put everything they could into that game.”
The Green’s freshman phenom proved too much to handle, however. Rookie Dartmouth forward Lucky Mkosana tallied a hat trick for the Green, including two goals within the first 10 minutes. But after giving up the two early goals, Cornell kept the game close.[img_assist|nid=33443|title=Watch out Pele|desc=Junior Matt Bouraee (12) netted two goals against Dartmouth on Saturday night in the Red’s 5-2 loss. Bouraee now has three goals on the season, which leads the Red.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
5:37 into the match, Mkosana split two Cornell defenders and got the ball past senior keeper Luca Cerretani.
Three minutes later, Mkosana managed to score with a low shot from the left side outside the box, again unassisted.
“He’s a real special player,” said senior defender Kevin Vieira. “He’s unbelievably quick. I don’t think we had to make any adjustments, we just needed to be aware of how quick he really was. Unfortunately, I don’t think we were ready for it.”
Instead of crumbling under the pressure of an early two-goal deficit, however, the Red offense rallied for one of its best performances of the year. Junior forward Matt Bouraee notched a goal in each half, each one assisted by senior defender Kevin Vieira. The junior has scored three of the Red’s eight goals in 2008.
At the 16:55 mark in the first half, Vieira passed up to Bouraee, who ripped a shot past Dartmouth goaltender Sean Milligan.
“It was nice to finally score,” Bouraee said. “It’s tough to go out there with your head high with a 1-13 record, now 1-14. But I’m actually satisfied with that game. The games we’ve had previously, most of them were embarrassing. But this game, I thought we competed, we battled and [Dartmouth was] having trouble with us. It was a pretty close game.”
Cerretani wasn’t afraid to come out of the Cornell goal. This aggressiveness played a part in giving up the five goals, but it also paid off. With six saves on the night, Cerretani made several key stops for the Red, including a reflex deflection with nine minutes left in the first half and another grab in traffic a few minutes later. With a little over five minutes left in the first period, Mkosana broke free again, but this time Cerretani was ready for the speedy freshman, getting low to make the stop.
The Green went to another option, however, as freshman midfielder Adam Rice’s header made it past the confusion of Cornell defenders and was buried in the goal with less than three minutes left in the half. Bouraee got it to 3-2 early in the second when cut in front of the Dartmouth goal and received a perfectly-timed pass from Vieira on the right.
The game remained tight until the 79th minute, when Mkosana added a third score. Senior center midfielder Craig Henderson’s only tally of the game came soon after, bringing the score to its final resting place of 5-2 with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Scales singled out some performances on the defensive end, those who had the tough task of containing Mkosana and Henderson, from Zimbabwe and New Zealand, respectively.
“If [Mkosana is] not the best player in the league, then Craig Henderson is the best player in the league,” Scales said. “They’re both internationals, both experienced, fast [and] they have good feet.”
“I thought [juniors] Matt Devitt and Brian Donovan did a good job on Henderson. We lost track of Lucky, well we didn’t lose track of him, he literally ran by us. There’s nothing much you can do about it. After that, we were able to adjust a little bit.”
Sophomore Adam Hardie also made a highlight reel-worthy play about halfway through the second. With Cerretani far out of the box, Mkosana looked to have an easy goal. Hardie ran back and deflected the shot with an outstretched leg — one of the youngest players stepping up on Senior Night at Berman Field.
“That was a good save, [Hardie] kept up with the play,” Scales said. “One thing you know about Adam is that Adam is into it and he’s into it 100 percent. He’s deserved to get a chance to play.”
While some young players got the chance to contribute, senior co-captain Jarid Siegel received the same gift. The fifth-year senior midfielder, who has been dogged by injuries throughout his career, entered a game for the first time this year.
For the seniors, the game was one more memory to be made.
“We always go out there hard, no matter what,” Vieira said. “[But] two years ago, we played our Senior Night game here too [against Dartmouth] and we won an overtime game, that was really special. Coming back here playing Dartmouth for the last time was reminiscent of it.”