The men’s soccer team played a different game than it is accustomed to on Friday night. The Red was forced to play the waiting game. What should have been the first matchup of the CU Inaria Classic, ended in a weather postponement for Cornell (5-0) and Vermont (2-3-2) after over two hours of waiting the storm out.
“Everyone on this team is a little edgy to play; we love to play,” said junior striker Daniel Haber. “We were feeling so good about ourselves and we really didn’t want to take that day off.”
However, the weekend was not completely spoiled for the Red, as Cornell welcomed the Wofford Terriers (4-3-0) to Berman Field for a midday bout on Sunday. During this match, the team found itself experiencing another first of the season — its first deficit of the year.
“We always pride ourselves on the character of this team and character of the individual players and this group and that was the very first test that our players had to face this season where we find ourselves behind one nothing,” said head coach Jaro Zawislan.
Wofford’s Alex Hutchins claimed the first goal of the day, blasting a ball past senior netminder Rick Pflasterer at just over the 25-minute mark.
“We knew [Wofford] was going to be tough, and we really felt that we had most of the momentum, so it was devastating to have a goal scored,” Haber said.
With a one-point gap, Cornell needed to shift its style of attack from playing to win the first point to playing to equalize the game.
“We responded pretty well toward the end of the first half and then carried that into the second half,” said sophomore midfielder Conor Goepel. “I think we had much better play in the second half all around.”
The first 45 minutes of play closed with Wofford leading the way, 1-0, as the teams regrouped and headed into the second half. Each side created multiple scoring opportunities; however, neither team was able to follow through on them. After a hard fought 65 minutes, Goepel netted the first goal of the day for Cornell and the Red’s spark was once more ignited on the field.
“I’m proud of us that we kept our heads up and kept getting chances,” Haber said. “We really feel like we had the possession for the majority of the time going into the halftime and coming out and getting the equalizer in the second half was a huge boost to our team.”
The equalizer came after Haber took a free kick from the left side of the field, sending it flying toward the penalty box. A Wofford player caught a piece of the action and knocked the ball away, before junior Patrick Slogic headed it back in direction of the goal. The 6-5 defender fed it off to Goepel, who was able to head it past Andrew Drennan in net.
“We were fighting and sometimes in soccer it just has to be a scrappy goal like that,” Haber said. “[Goepel] did a great job and tipped it in.”
The Red’s goal jumpstarted the momentum on the field and the fight was on the score the game winner. After 20 minutes of both teams trying to capitalize on scoring opportunities, Haber put the game away, 2-1, with a goal in the 85th minute.
“[Scoring the game winner] just shows the character of the team striving through the whole game and coming through from behind,” Zawislan said. “I’m very happy for our players because it’s a reflection of their hard work.”
Junior midfielder Ben Williams sent a solid shot directly to Haber, and the striker was able to outplay the Wofford goalie to win the point. This goal lifts Haber’s count to seven for the season, just two less than his team-high nine goals for the 2011 season.
“The guys on our team really worked hard and repossessed the ball in the middle third, caught them off guard and Ben Williams played an absolute beautiful job to me,” Haber said. “The guys behind me did all the work and I did my job.”
Williams earned recognition as CU Inaria Defensive MVP for his solid contributions in the midfield throughout the game, as well as for his assist on Haber’s game winner. Slogic and Haber were named to the All-Tournament team.
Cornell remains undefeated and untied with the win, starting 5-0 for the first time since 1996. The victory against Wofford also marks another program landmark, as Cornell tied the school record for consecutive games with a goal (21), equaling the mark set by the 1970-71 team.
“We couldn’t be happier with how we are progressing,” Haber said. “We feel like something special is happening, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. Five games is not a whole season, but we are really happy with how we are starting.”
Cornell has a short window for recovery, as it hits the road tomorrow to play Binghamton in Vestal, N.Y. Last year the Red handed the Bearcats a 4-0 shutout last season.