November 19, 2001

Soccer Hopes for At-Large NCAA Bid

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The men’s soccer team (9-4-3, 1-3-3 Ivy) took care of its business.

After slipping to .500 on Oct. 26, the team has peeled off six straight games without a loss to finish the regular season poised to enter the NCAA tournament. Now the tournament selection committee has to do its part and hand Cornell an at-large bid.

The Red finished out its schedule on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over Binghamton (2-17-0, 0-6-0 Atlantic Soccer Conference) on Senior Day at Berman Field. The season might not be done though, as the Red still has at least one more obstacle to overcome. The 48-team field for the national tournament will be announced at 3:00 p.m. today, and the first goal for Cornell is to get into the bracket.

“It’s so subjective, the way they pick the teams,” junior captain Liam Hoban commented. “We didn’t win the league, so we’re not an automatic. There’s probably 50 teams fighting for 20 at-large bids.

“Our odds are good now, we finished strong. So that very much increases our chances, but there’s no guarantees,” the captain concluded.

“We’ll keep our fingers crossed,” head coach Bryan Scales said. “We’re the number two team in this region, and at 9-4-3, make a good case for ourselves with a few of the wins that we had. I think we’ve got a good shot at it.”

Feeling the importance of the match, Cornell came out of the gate on Saturday evening with a lot of intensity, quickly jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes.

Senior Ted Papadopoulos helped open up the scoring when he slipped a beautiful pass through the Bearcats’ defense to freshman Steve Reuter, who beat senior goalkeeper Gianni Di Ciollo for the Red’s first tally.

Just 2:26 later, sophomore Kaj Hackinen poked a header just over Di Ciollo’s reach to extend Cornell’s lead to 2-0. Junior Kevin London was credited with the assist on Hackinen’s goal. The score was Hackinen’s third of the season.

Both squads had several other opportunities during the first half. Binghamton junior Davide Di Genova had a pair of breakaways, but fired one shot over the crossbar and the other wide left. Papadopoulos missed a shot wide left at the other end of the pitch, and Red sophomores Evan Wiener and Ian Pilarski both cleared the crossbar on shots.

With 26 seconds remaining in the half though, the Bearcats clawed their way back into the game on a goal by sophomore Pat Skinner, who beat Red junior goalie Doug Allan. Skinner cranked a shot past a diving Allan into the top right corner of the net. Freshman Motty Gutflais set up the goal.

“When it’s 2-1 going into halftime, that’s the worst score to be winning by, because one goal and it’s a different game,” Hoban said.

Coming out of the half, Binghamton had the momentum, but Allan and the back four were able to repel the attack. The defense included a nice stop when Allan intercepted a pass intended to set up a Binghamton header in the box.

Cornell was able to reverse the flow of the game soon after the Bearcat flurry and its efforts were rewarded when Pilarski hit the back of net on a long range shot with 10:20 remaining in the game. Pilarski’s unassisted insurance goal iced the game for the Red and also enabled Scales to give all the seniors some playing time in their final scheduled game.

Allan made sure the door stayed closed to a Bearcat comeback when he made a nice save on a free kick by Binghamton’s leading scorer, junior Mike Kaneris.

“Coming off an emotional win on Tuesday night, it’s all about getting a result at this stage,” Scales said. “I think the guys felt as though they could have played better, but we were just happy that we got the win.”

Papadopoulos almost added a goal in the game’s waning minutes, but the senior couldn’t find the net on his class’s night. Di Ciolla made a fantastic save on the senior’s first shot and then made an equally impressive stop on the rebound attempt. Papadopoulos still finished the regular season easily atop the Cornell scoring leaders with seven goals and three assists for 17 points. He also led the departing senior class in career points.

“This is an exciting time for all of them,” Scales said of the seniors. “Any time you play your last game on this field it’s an emotional day for them. You just want to make sure that you get a good result, and they did.”

From this point on, the chances for the seniors to prolong their careers rests in the hands of the selection committee.

“We’ll see where we go and if we are lucky enough to get a good draw,” Scales said. “We’ll find out [today].”

Archived article by Alex Fineman