After winning the first two games of its season in California last weekend, Cornell (2-0-0) has its sights set on the its game against Lafayette tonight. The Red is hoping to pick up another “W” this weekend to boost its record to three wins and zero losses — a starting season record the Red has not repeated since 2007.
“As the results showed last weekend, we are exactly where we need to be for Friday’s game,” said head coach Jaro Zawislan. “The most important thing for us though is to keep improving through the whole season.”
According to Zawislan, schools in the Ivy League generally start their soccer seasons a few weeks later than most other out-of-conference schools do. This puts the Red at a slight disadvantage against out-of-conference teams in terms of fitness and tactical preparation, which Zawislan pointed out has not been much of a factor in the Red’s performance against out-of-conference teams.
“It’s very important for our players to come in and hit the ground running by creating a very solid physical foundation, and credit to our players, they’ve done that,” he said. “We felt like we were in the best position to be able to catch up with the rest of the country.”
The team is itching to continue its success this weekend against Lafayette, working hard in practice to prepare both physically and mentally for Friday’s game. Cornell and Lafayette have played against each other since 1987, with Lafayette emerging as the dominant team by winning 5 out of 9 encounters with Cornell.
“In previous years [Lafayette] has been a tough opponent, but we’re looking to come out strong and continue playing our brand of soccer,” said senior goalkeeper Rick Pflasterer. “Last year we didn’t start nearly as strong, so we’re looking to keep the season rolling.”
The Red works hard in practice to find a winning formula, which is something junior defensive midfielder Ben Williams said the team plans to continue using.
“What we’re doing, what we’re practicing as a team is successful and we’ll just continue on with it,” he said. “The next game for us is a big one.”
The Red is closing in on a long-held school record. If the team scores goals in its next three games, then this year’s team would tie the school record of 21 consecutive games with at least one goal scored. That record, set in the 1970 and 1971 seasons, has stood for over 40 years.
According to Zawislan, the secret to Cornell’s success comes from the dedication of his players to improving all aspects of their game.
“Every player individually knows that they need to take care of their own piece of the puzzle and keep improving day to day,” he said. “I expect us to be better on Friday than we were last Sunday.”
On Sunday, the Red will have its home opener, playing against Buffalo. Cornell has tried to remain focused on its Friday game though, making sure to do all it can to beat Lafayette.
“It’s always huge to get a big home crowd, but for this weekend we’re just worried about Friday right now,” Pflasterer said. “Lafayette does get some fans out to their games, so playing out on the road is always tough.”
What Plasterer said is indicative of something the team is ready to admit: fan presence at games plays an important factor in the team’s performance on the field. According to Williams, the team hopes that its home opener on Sunday includes a large turnout amongst Cornell soccer fans.
“It brings additional energy that you don’t always feel on the road,” Williams said. “It’s nice to play in front of people you know.”
The Red will play Lafayette this Friday at Oaks Stadium in Easton, Pa. and then return home for a game against Buffalo on Sunday at Berman Field.