“Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.”
While the original author is unknown, the sentiment is one that many athletes can relate to. After going 1-15 in 2008, expectations for the men’s soccer team were low; however, in four years under the leadership of head coach Jaro Zawislan, the program has grown stronger and experienced a complete turn around. This season the No. 14 Red finished with a 15-1 overall record and a 6-1 mark in the Ivy League, which earned the team the Ivy League Championship outright for the first time since 1977.
“Lifting up [the Ivy League] Trophy was unreal,” said senior center attacking midfielder and tri-captain Nico Nissl. “I remember standing in the middle of the field and watching all my peers cheering. I was like ‘Wow we finally reached our ultimate goal.’ It was definitely a moment that was hard to settle in. I don’t think it hit a lot of us until quite a bit later, but now that we’ve achieved it, it’s really been a dream come true.”
Ending the 2012 fall campaign on a positive note, Cornell handily defeated Columbia (4-8-4, 2-3-2 Ivy League), 1-0, successfully clinching the Ivy League crown outright for the second time in program history. With the conference title, the Red also earned an NCAA Tournament berth — its first since 1996. However, the team celebrated the NCAA news on Friday night after learning that Dartmouth (9-7-0, 5-2-0) beat Brown (12-2-3, 4-1-2), 2-1, in overtime.
“The number one goal of the season [to win the Ivy League Championship] has been accomplished,” Zawislan said. “I am so happy and proud of the players. Their hard work has been validated.”
Playing against Columbia was going to be a battle for the Red, but the team was completely focused on achieving its biggest goal of the season: winning the Ivy League Championship. While the Lions were determined to spoil Cornell’s title dreams, Columbia was unable to contain the Red after junior striker Daniel Haber scored the game-winner at the 14-minute mark.
“It was a hard fought game and [the Lions] were very talented and very good at possessing the ball,” said senior forward and tri-captain Tyler Regan. “I think that we played very solidly defensively. There were very few chances for either team, but Haber put away a great goal and it was all that we needed.”
Leading up to the goal, Nissl had a solid shot on goal, but Columbia’s senior defender Brendan O’Hearn was unable to clear the ball out of the Lions’ defensive third. Junior defender Jake Rinow headed the ball back into the box, where Haber was waiting for the right opportunity to score. The junior striker caught the ball, edged past a defender and sent the shot home away for the win and the Ivy League title. With the shot, Haber picked up his 18th goal of the season, lifting him to 43 points for the year.
All season Zawislan stressed that every next game and next play are the most important of the season, and the contest against Columbia was no different. Cornell outplayed the Lions in almost every aspect of the game — recording a 6-2 advantage in shots on goal, 5-4 in corner kicks and 15-5 margin in total shots. After Haber’s early goal, Cornell continued to give a dynamic effort, especially in the defensive third where senior goalkeeper and tri-captain Rick Pflasterer made two saves behind a solid back line of junior defenders Jake Kirsch and Patrick Slogic, sophomore defender Peter Chodas and Rinow.
Pflasterer helped the Red to its seventh shutout of the season. The victory is his 15th of the year, which breaks the Cornell record for wins in a single season and places him in second place for all-time wins in a career (29). Saturday also marked Cornell’s first win over Columbia since 2010. Last year the two Ivy rivals battled on Nov. 12, where each team had a share of the conference title on the line; however, after a hard-fought 110 minutes, the teams shared a 1-1 tie and missed out on winning the Ivy crown.
“Last year we felt that [Columbia] took away our chance at an Ivy title and we took away their chance at an Ivy title,” Haber said. “This year they were trying to play spoiler and we didn’t let them.”
The regular season may be over now, but the Red still has a long road ahead. Today at 5:30 p.m. the NCAA selection show will air on NCAA.com, announcing if the Red will play in the first-round on Thursday of next week or earn a first-round bye and play in the second on Sunday. Winning the Ivy League Championship opened a Pandora’s box for the Red.
“[Winning the title is] definitely a double-edged sword because we achieved the goal, but now we are getting greedy,” Regan said. “That’s now not our goal anymore. Our goal is to win the first tournament game and then win the second tournament game. We are never going to be satisfied until we win the national title.”
Original Author: Lauren Ritter