The men’s soccer team will travel to Cambridge this weekend to duel with Ivy League foe Harvard. The Red hope to halt a two game skid that has dropped it to a 4-4 mark (1-1 Ivy).
Saturday afternoon’s contest in Boston will be a prime opportunity for the club to rejuvenate and get back into the win column. The contest is the booters’ first Ancient Eight action since they dropped a 3-0 decision to Yale last Saturday.
Harvard is in the midst of a rebuilding effort. Second year head coach John Kerr is at the helm of a youthful Crimson club that accrued a 6-9-2 overall record last season, good enough for a fifth-place finish in the league. After concluding the season with four wins in its final five contests, Harvard has rode the momentum into the early stages of this season, opening the 2000 campaign by tallying a 4-2-1 (0-1 Ivy) mark.
The Crimson managed to get even younger this season, as 13 rookies joined the squad’s ranks. It is the largest freshman class that the team has seen in years and has produced competition for spots at every position on the field. Nonetheless, the team has 15 returnees from last year’s club.
Junior Mike Meagher will likely man the action between the pipes for Harvard. A mid-season injury sidelined him last year and though he earned a modest 5-7-2 record in 15 games, his 1.87 goals against average reflected his extremely able play at times.
The face of the Crimson backfield experienced some changes this season as senior Ryan Kelley, a second team All-Ivy defender last season moved up to forward. Despite this departure, the defense is anchored by the capable Matt Edwards and Mike Lobach, another back who garnered All-Ivy second team honors. Sophomore Joe Steffa, the club’s most improved player last season, rounds out the corps.
The Red will need to tighten its defense, a primary source of its recent troubles as it faces a pair of veterans in Harvard’s midfield, senior Wells Mangrum and junior Michael Peller. Peller, a workhouse who has missed just one game in the last two years, is looking to increase his point production after accumulating a modest two goals and two assists last year. Ontario native, sophomore Marc Braun, is expected to be a scoring threat as well.
The team graduated its crowning jewel, first team All-Ivy honoree Armando Petruccelli. Despite Petruccelli tallying 18 points last season, the Crimson averaged a menial 1.35 goals a game last season. With his departure, second-year captain Ryan Kelly, who spent the last three years as an All-Ivy defender, will now move up to the attack. The team will also rely on its leading assist man junior Nick Lenicheck, an honor he has held for the last two years, to not only be magnanimous with the ball but also create his own scoring opportunities.
For the Red, the weekend’s trek to Massachusetts marks an opportunity to start with a clean slate. Senior tri-captain Richard Stimpson, who has continued to direct the squad’s offense, issued a challenge to his teammates to start the season fresh tomorrow.
“For us, the tournament has started right now,” Stimpson said.
Cornell’s Achilles’ heel has been its defense. The team has attributed its woes to its lack of cohesion on that end of the ball.
“We need to pull together defensively. We’ve got to stop giving away goals. It’s huge,” remarked the English native.
Freshman Colin Nevison, who, along with classmate Ian Pilarski, has been among the most consistent performers on the Red, agreed.
“We’re giving [up] too many goals recently,” he said.
In the last two losses, the Red has surrendered six goals. In its four wins, its opponents found the back of the net just five times.
Cornell will also need to finish better offensively. In its previous two losses, it has doubled up on opponents shot output by a 32-16 mark.
“We need to finish the opportunities we get,” affirmed Nevison.
Stimpson’s challenge did not fall on deaf ears. The squad knows how important tomorrow’s contest is and understands the vast difference between dropping to 1-2 in the league or improving to 2-1 in Ancient Eight Competition.
“It’s a really big game for us. We really need to get a win. The team should be really fired up,” Nevison commented.
For Stimpson, who along with fellow senior Adam Skumawitz, held one of the top three scoring spots in the Ivy League entering the contest against Syracuse, the recent downturn provides an opportunity to set new goals.
“We need to win every game from here on in,” the hotel student said, adding “It’s going to be a big push from now on in.”
Nevertheless the tri-captain remains optimistic.
“Everybody knows if we come out on Saturday and play like we can we will come away with the right result,” he observed.
Skumawitz, who assisted on Cornell’s game tying goal early in the second half against Syracuse will be an integral component of the Red’s offensive machine. He has notched nine points in the last four games, including a streak that witnessed the senior tallying eight points in two games.
Like Stimpson, he is optimistic.
“Every game counts. We can’t dwell on our mistakes,” he stated.
Yet, the Cal Ripken of the team, who has not missed a game in his career is keenly aware of the importance of this weekend’s contest.
“Each game of the season is the biggest game. There is no other option than to go [to Harvard] and win,” he said.
Skumawitz concluded by words worth being heeded by his teammates and fans of the squad as well:
“We still have everything to play for and still have the Ivy title in our grasp.”
Archived article by Gary Schueller