Home sweet home.
Returning to the friendly confines of Berman Field, the Cornell men’s soccer squad will look to halt a two-game loosing streak that dropped its record to 2-2, when it plays host to Ancient Eight foe, Penn. Tonight’s contest, slated for a 7 p.m. start, will open the club’s Ivy League campaign.
The booters dropped consecutive contests to national powerhouses Vanderbilt and Saint Louis. In Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Bilikens, the Red opened the action with an extremely poor defensive showing, falling behind 2-0 within the first ten minutes. In the second half, Cornell tightened its defense allowing no shots or corner kicks.
That type of play will be key as the club does battle with the Quakers. In fact, the Red must produce the type of offensive that enabled it to begin the season 2-0, as the visitors are known for a formidable defense.
Since head coach Brian Fuller took over the reigns, the Penn program has endured a rebuilding period but is poised to become a force within the conference. This week it earned its first regional ranking since 1997, posting a No. 10 rank in the highly competitive Mid-Atlantic Conference, which includes national stalwarts Pittsburgh and Penn State.
The Quakers (2-2), sport an All-American rooster which is touted for its speed, high level of physical speed and impressive depth.
The cornerstone of the Penn team will be its defense, which features junior Jon Salvucci, an All-Ivy honorable mention selection in 1999. An aggressive, physical style player, he knows how to earn possession of 50-50 balls, especially in the air. In addition, he is a skillful defender.
The corps of the defense is young but talented. Sophomores Eric Mandel and William Lee will patrol the back.
Mandel boosts a strong passing game, while Lee is an aggressive defender recognized for his marking skills. The two have impressed the Quakers coaching staff with their dynamic team work.
In 1999, Penn dropped six of its contests in one goal decisions, including a tight match with formidable Old Dominion. Playing with as many as seven freshman on the field at once last year, the Quakers will come to Ithaca with a more experienced, cohesive unit.
For the Red, this is where there quest for an Ivy League crown begins. A win against Penn tonight starts the Red on the road to its first Ancient Eight title in four years. Cornell concluded last year’s conference play with a mark of 5-2, having been in the race for the championship and a NCAA bid until the waning days of the season.
Head Coach Bryan Scales knows the game will be an early challenge for the Red.
Historically the Red has performed well against the Quakers, with Scales patrolling the sidelines, having swept Penn. Last year, on the road, the Red edged the hosts 2-0.
Cornell has learned it will have to compete without standout tri-captain Oswaldo Rodriguez, known affectionately to his team mates as “Ozzy.”
The Cal State-Northridge transfer will be sorely missed.
The first test of this will come this evening when the Red may very well set the pace for what could be its first Ivy League championship season in four years.
Archived article by Gary Schueller