At the kickoff of the second half of its Tuesday night game, the Cornell men’s soccer team (1-9-2) (0-0-2 Ivy) was down 1-0 to the Colgate Raiders (8-4-0) and had not even taken a single shot.
The outlook seemed grim. Before Tuesday night, the Raiders had failed to lose a match when they scored first this season. The Red was coming off two consecutive Ivy League losses and seemed to be losing momentum.
But during the second half, something suddenly clicked.
Junior standout striker Jonathan Cullom took two tenacious chances on goal in the first 10 minutes before assisting sophomore Ryan Watters with the equalizing goal.
After three minutes of play in the second half, Cullom scored the Red’s second goal, catching the rebound of a shot from freshman George Pedlow.
Right when it seemed like Cornell had stolen all the momentum, the Raiders brought the game back up to a tie after about a minute of play.
The next 20 minutes of the game were incredibly tense. After three yellow cards, 11 fouls and five Colgate substitutions, the sloppiness eventually spilled over into the Raider’s goal box. The Red was awarded a penalty kick that ended the match in Cornell’s favor.
After 11 winless games, the outcome came as both a relief and a confidence booster for the Red, according to Pedlow.
“Coach [John Smith] was very happy with our performance,” Pedlow said. “[He] feels we deserved a win.”
The success against Colgate immediately follows what freshman midfielder Christophe Gerlach described as a “low point” in the Red’s season.
This past weekend, the Red suffered an embarrassing defeat in its second round of Ivy League competition against Harvard. The Crimson finished the match with a 4-0 shutout, one of most dramatic losses Cornell has seen this season.
“It will go down as the one game this year where I would say we simply did not show up to play,” Smith said. “We made Harvard look like Barcelona.”
It was the exact same outcome the Red suffered at the hands of one of the nation’s top-ranked teams, UVA, just two weeks ago. But rather than a hard fought effort that resulted in a loss, this time the team describes the entire game as a disappointment.
Freshman striker Brady Dickens said Smith was critical of the team’s performance against Harvard.
“He was very disappointed in us for both halves of the performance, especially the first half,” Dickens said. “[Smith] said that it was apparent that our defense was not very organized, we weren’t stepping, and that we were always just a yard too late. He was just kind of embarrassed that that was the performance that we put out there.”
That sentiment was shared by most of the players.
In an effort to shine some positive light on the game, Pedlow admitted that in the second half Cornell was able to create some chances on goal. Outside of that, he said there wasn’t much to be proud of.
“But overall it was a terrible game,” Pedlow added. “We weren’t shutting down, we weren’t doing what we needed to do individually.”
Perhaps the disappointment that surrounded this performance was precisely what the team needed to lock down its first win of the season.
“I have been so very proud of our effort in all of our games up until [the Harvard game],” Smith said. “[This game] will be the last time we show up to a game with the wrong mindset.”
The Red was able to learn from the experience and turn its disappointment into the aggressive tenacity that helped fuel Tuesday night’s victory.
“That’s the beauty of the game,” Smith said. “There’s so much potential for growth when things don’t go right and there is an opportunity for us to either fall forward or backward.”
Cornell plays Yale in the third Ivy League match of the season this Sunday at 1 p.m. on the Red’s own Berman Field.