“When we scored [the game-winning, overtime] goal I thought my head was going to explode,” said senior goalkeeper and tri-captain Rick Pflasterer. “I just started sprinting to the fans and the corner flag with everyone else.”
With sole possession of second place in the Ivy League on the line, Cornell and Dartmouth prepared themselves for an intense level of competition on Berman Field Saturday night. Battling against not only each other, but also freezing temperatures, gusting winds and misting rain, the teams played an entire 90 minutes of soccer; however, after coming up tied at one-all at the end of regulation play, sudden death overtime was the only solution for determining a winner.
“At the end of the final whistle, everyone who was on the field was absolutely dead; [it was] complete exhaustion but you have to kick it into the next gear and you just have to raise the level because you have to get the job done,” said junior midfielder Stephen Reisert. “We just knew that we worked too hard this season to let the game slip away. We knew that we were controlling pretty much our fate in the Ivy League. We knew that we had to remain composed, but go out there and stay focused.”
With a chance of regaining the lead in the conference rankings a possibility, the No. 15 Red (14-1-0, 5-1-0 Ivy League) was determined to find a positive result. With the vision of winning the Ivy League Championship secured in their minds, the players took to the pitch for the extra time and brought the intensity of the game up another notch.
“Our players stay focused on the game and that is a credit to them,” said head coach Jaro Zawislan. “It doesn’t matter the conditions they are playing in, they stay focused on the matter at hand.”
It took Cornell 12:37 into overtime to find an opening in Dartmouth’s (8-7-0, 4-2-0) defensive third and execute the play. Senior forward and tri-captain Tyler Regan scored the game-winner after the Red experienced a brief back-and-forth with the Green’s defense. Reisert played the ball into the box and took a shot on goal, but a Dartmouth defender blocked it. Regan scooped up a rebound, but junior keeper Noah Cohen dove for the ball and knocked it away. Regan was right there once more, but this time he put the shot away and helped the Red secure the win.
“I took a shot that got blocked and then as I was falling, the ball came back to me and I shot it,’ the senior said. “I just knew the goalie was down because he reacted to my first shot, so he dove to his left, which made me know that I had the entire right side open.”
This marked Regan’s fourth goal of the season, which gives him 14 points this year. Scoring the game winner was a fitting end for the senior to end his Cornell home career playing at Berman Field.
“[Scoring the goal in overtime] was extremely exciting obviously, but most importantly I wanted to win,” Regan said. “Being the one who scored, I’m not going to lie is really cool on Senior Night, but the win means everything. We’re in a position now where we control our destiny and we can win Ivies.”
Paired with Cornell’s crucial win over Dartmouth came the news that Brown ― who handed the Red its only loss of the year on Oct. 20 — tied Yale, 1-1. Saturday’s win gave Cornell three points, which were enough to bump the Red past the Brown by one point in the standings. Cornell has sole possession of the conference now, with only Columbia remaining on the regular season schedule.
While the end result was favorable for the Red, the contest against Dartmouth did not begin on a positive note. After a few repossessions in the Red’s box and a hand-ball call, the Green earned a corner. An expertly executed free kick from the right of the box by Green senior midfielder and captain Kevin Dzierzawski found the head of sophomore midfielder Colin Heffron, who was able to beat Pflasterer to the punch. Dartmouth was on the board at just under 29 minutes and Cornell was left empty handed.
“We were pissed after the goal. We knew that losing was not going to be an option and we need to get that goal back,” Reisert said. “So 90 seconds after that we decided to take the game back into our hands and really just drive at them.”
Reisert ― who tallied an assist on Regan’s goal ― retaliated a minute and a half later. The sequence began when Reisert caught a long ball from junior midfielder Ben Williams on the left side of the box and fired it off towards the top of the net, where the ball flew in just over Cohen’s extended fingertips.
“I got a great ball from Ben Williams at the top of the eighteen and put it in,” Reisert said. “It was really great for us to come back from being scored on so quickly just because it gives us momentum and restores hope again. It was a really great game and the pace was really high and intense.”
The Red ended the night doubling all of Dartmouth’s statistics, outshooting the Green, 28-14, and earning more corners, 10-5. Pflasterer recorded a season-high seven saves, with two of them coming in the first overtime. Throughout the entire 102 minutes of play, the Red continued to remain in the game and not become complacent.
“Through the whole season, our players not only focus on the next game, but especially in particular on the next play,” Zawislan said. “When you go into sudden death overtime it is so much more important just to focus on the next play no matter what you are facing. It is very important that you are defensively solid and you do a very good job of it, so you get yourself another chance to attack and score a goal.”
With the win, Cornell has regained control of its destiny, as well as the top spot in the Ivy League. The Red’s chances of winning the conference title are no longer a far-off dream because as the week nears Saturday’s contest against Columbia the dream could become a reality.
“Of all years to win the Ivy League, I think this is our year,” Reisert said. “We’ve been playing so hard and putting so much energy and effort into this season and into this team that it feels really great to be on top and we are expecting nothing less than a win against Columbia. It’s not going to be easy and it’s going to be away, but there is only one thing on our mind and that is winning the Ivy League Championship.”
Cornell will have the chance to claim the title, as well as the NCAA Tournament berth that goes with it, when the team travels to New York City to face Columbia on Nov.10.
Original Author: Lauren Ritter