Sophomore midfielder/defender Atticus DeProspo was hoisted up in the air by his excited teammates after scoring his second goal of the season, as the team celebrated the Red’s 2-0 lead over Yale. DeProspo combined efforts with senior forward and tri-captain Tyler Regan and junior forward Daniel Haber to record Cornell’s 3-0 shutout in front of a record-setting 1,121 fans. The crowd witnessed another record being made, as the team earned its program-best 12th straight victory.
The No. 16 Red welcomed Ivy rival Yale to Berman Field on Saturday afternoon in what proved to be a conference showdown. From the first whistle, the Bulldogs challenged Cornell — pressuring the players on the field and forcing the Red (12-0-0, 3-0-0 Ivy League) to increase its level of competition. According to head coach Jaro Zawislan, the victory over Yale (3-6-3, 0-2-1) was “an excellent win against a quality opponent.”
At first glance, Yale’s record entering the matchup has not been particularly strong this season. The Bulldogs have only five goals to their name — the lowest of any Ivy League team — and have yet to score on a conference competitor; however, they tie the Red in goals against, only giving up nine for the season. While Yale’s offense continues to struggle to make a name for itself on the field, the defense is defining itself as a powerful force.
“Going into this game we knew it was going to be a difficult game,” Zawislan said. “We needed to step up our game, especially in the second half, so scoring three goals against this [defensively organized] team is something to be proud of.”
The first 45 minutes of play were a test of patience, as the Bulldogs defense and Red offense engaged in a back and forth game. Standing at 6-5, senior goalkeeper Bobby Thalman diligently defended Yale’s net, with the line of defenders creating a strong wall in front of him. Cornell managed six shots on goal; however, Thalman blocked every attack and held the Red to a scoreless first half.
On the other end of the field, senior tri-captain Rick Pflasterer recorded a pair of saves — his only two for the night. With the win, Pflasterer earned his third shutout of the year — the fifth overall for the Red — and made his 50th career appearance. Forming a strong wall in the Red’s defensive third were sophomores Peter Chodas and Matt Mardesich and juniors Patrick Slogic and Jake Rinow. The back four limited Yale to only two shots on goal for the afternoon.
Entering the second half, both teams needed to make good on a scoring opportunity. Outshooting the Bulldogs 23-11, Cornell finally broke through in the 63rd minute. Haber took a free kick and sent the ball into the box, where a few players got their heads in the game and caught a piece of the action. After a few bounces and unsuccessful clears on Yale’s part, Regan headed the ball over the 6-5 goalkeeper into the right of the net. It was the forward’s third goal of the year, as well as his 20th career point.
Just about 20 minutes into the second half, sophomore midfielder Conor Goepel took a hard foul, going down and needing assistance as he walked off the field. Yale’s Max McKiernan received a yellow card for his actions and Cornell received a renewed motivation, which carried the team through the final 25 minutes of play.
“When some someone goes down … you rally,” Regan said.
While Goepel’s collision contributed to a momentum shift in favor of the Red, according to Regan, the game was beginning to shift before that.
“We kind of sensed it coming,” he said. “It’s everyone going up and not giving Yale a clean header. Pat Slogic, Matt [Mardesich], they’re all going up and making it so Yale can’t get a clean clearance. I got lucky. I put the ball up and it went in.”
A little more than 10 minutes later, DeProspo gave Cornell its first insurance goal. Haber took the ball up the right side of the field and sent it toward the center of the field to Stephen Reisert. In a sneaky move, the junior midfielder/forward faked a touch and let the ball continue on to forward Nico Nissl. The senior tri-captain found DeProspo to his left, and DeProspo was able to beat a Yale defender and Thalman for the point, also his second career goal.
“It was a great team effort to get the ball up the field,” DeProspo said. “It was hard to break through their pressure, but we did a really good job and started to get the momentum in the second half. I just got the opportunity with a great pass across.”
Exactly six minutes later Haber added the final goal of the day. Netting his 16th of the year, the junior sent a free kick over a wall of seven defenders and into the back of the net past Thalman. Haber took the free kick after Nissl sent a solid shot from just outside the box in the direction of the goal and it was knocked away by a Yale handball.
“[The win] was a really good momentum push, especially in front of a great crowd,” DeProspo said. “We were really glad so many people came out, and it really helped us get the win today.”
Acting as a 12th player on the field, the fans provided the team with enough motivation and energy to finish the game strong, according to DeProspo, who said the team could hear all the lively chants from the stands. The record-breaking crowd was witness to members of the team creating a few new records of their own. In addition to the team recording its most consecutive victories and most consecutive games with at least one goal (28), Zawislan hit a coaching landmark as he recorded his 30th career win with the Red and Haber tied for fifth all-time in team history for points (65).
“Like we always said, records are meant to be broken, but it’s definitely something to be proud of,” Zawislan said. “It’s another step in the right direction.”
With one more win under its belt, the Red will look to prepare for the next game on the schedule. According to Regan, the team is always looking forward.
“We’re going to enjoy the win against Yale, but now it’s over, so now we’re moving on,” he said.
The team sits at a perfect 3-0 in Ivy League play, with two points over No. 19 Brown and three over Dartmouth. Four games remain for the Red, all of which are against closely ranked Ivy teams. While Cornell is currently top of the conference, according to Regan, the Red is not letting up as it heads into the next four weeks.
“In the Ivies we were 3-0 last year, and we finished with a loss and three ties, so we don’t think we’ve accomplished anything,” he said. “We’ve got to keep it going, and we’re not happy with 3-0 because we’ve been here before and had a let-up.”
As the regular season continues to wind down, national competition begins to come into view, as the winner of the Ivy conference will receive a bid to the NCAA tournament. However, the Red is not focusing on the national tournament and is instead keeping its sights set on the conference crown.
“The number one goal is not only competing, but going after the Ivy League championship,” Zawislan said. “By winning the Ivy League championship, you win the automatic bid and that is the most assured way of going to the national tournament.”
The Red will continue its journey to compete for the Ivy title this weekend, traveling to Providence, R.I., to face Brown.