The men’s soccer team’s (7-4-3, 1-3-3 Ivy) run at an NCAA tournament berth continues tonight when Cornell takes on Hartwick (11-7-0, 2-3-0 ASC) in the biggest game of the season for both teams. The Red is ranked second in the New York region, but the Hawks are right behind at number three. The second team in the region will likely receive an at-large bid to the tournament, since top-seeded St. John’s could receive an automatic bid as Big East champ.
“If we win the next two, I would say that a tournament bid is likely,” head coach Bryan Scales predicted.
After tonight’s game, the final piece of the schedule falls in place on Saturday against Binghamton. Scales went on to say that a split will take away any serious chance at a postseason spot.
In addition to the postseason implications of the match, Cornell has a few bones to pick with Hartwick. The Hawks left last year’s contest between the two schools with a 7-2 victory in Oneonta, and the Red will be seeking redemption.
Scales has an additional motive to show Hartwick a solid performance — he played his college soccer for the Hawks.
Cornell will be more than happy to play host to this year’s contest. The Red sports a 5-1-1 record at Berman Field. Among those five wins are the team’s three biggest offensive games of the season.
However, Hartwick will not lay down easily for Cornell. It is a fast team that plays disciplined soccer. Rob Catana, who recorded a hat trick last year, returns for the Hawks as does first-team all ASC defender Matt Strode and second-teamers Jonathan Westmaas, Michael McGivney and Neil McLean.
Since both teams are out of the hunt for an NCAA bid, the contest will probably shatter the loser’s playoff hopes.
“It’s a huge game for us,” Scales said. “There’s only 48 teams out of 200 that get invited to the national tournament, and so for this group, as young as it is, to be in it at this stage of the game is an exciting thing for all of us.”
Cornell has turned around what seemed to be a disappointing season in the past two weeks, going 3-0-1 after seeing its record fall to .500 on October 26. The hot streak continued Saturday afternoon with an exciting 3-1 comeback victory against Columbia (6-6-3, 3-3-1 Ivy). The win was the first Ivy win for the Red, but more importantly, it strengthened Cornell’s chances at landing a spot in the national tournament.
“We weren’t really looking at [Columbia] as an Ivy League game,” Scales explained. “For us, it was a regional game. These guys know the importance of all of these games from now on in, because we’re not going to win the league. We have to devote all of our energy to winning the rest of our games for the tournament.”
Senior Matt Eldridge’s first career goal came at the best possible time for the Red — with 11 minutes left against the Lions and the score tied at one goal apiece. He followed his own shot and fired the rebound into the net from 25 yards out.
The Lions got on the board first, when Craig Smart put a shot on net. Thorstein Gestsson slipped the rebound past junior goalkeeper Doug Allan, giving Columbia the lead just 1:09 into the game. Gestsson’s goal was his second of the weekend after returning from a three-game injury layoff.
Later in the first half, Red senior Ted Papadopoulos evened the score when he took a crossing pass from sophomore Ian Pilarski and beat Columbia goalie Mike Ewers.
Eldridge’s goal at 78:37 put Cornell ahead, and also helped the senior earn Cornell Air Force ROTC Athlete of the Week honors. Thirty-two seconds after Eldridge gave the Red the lead with his goal, freshman Steve Reuter added an insurance goal, scoring on a breakaway.
“I thought that it was a pretty convincing performance,” Scales said. “We gave up the first goal in the first minute, but I thought from then on in, for the rest of that 89 minutes, we were clearly the team that was on top, the better team.”
Reuter’s goal chased Ewers, who made just three saves while surrendering all of Cornell’s tallies. He was replaced by freshman Dean Arnaoutakis, who made his first career appearance but did not have the opportunity to make a save during his 10:51 of action.
The loss ended the Lions’ season on a three-game losing streak. Columbia went into Saturday’s game trying to rebound from a 2-1 overtime loss to Hartwick.
Archived article by Alex Fineman