The men’s soccer team (9-4-3, 1-3-3 Ivy) gathered at the Ithaca Sports Club yesterday afternoon to watch the NCAA tournament selection show, hoping to see itself in the bracket as an at-large bid. Instead, it had to leave the restaurant knowing that its 2001 season was over.
“They’re pretty disappointed — crushed is probably a better word,” head coach Bryan Scales said of his players. “They put everything they could into the games this year.”
The Red certainly made a strong case for its selection to the 48-team field. After falling to a 4-4-2 record on October 26, Scales’s troops finished their final six games of the season undefeated. The run included wins over key regional opponents Columbia (6-6-3, 3-3-1 Ivy) and Hartwick (12-8, 3-3 ASC). Cornell, ranked second in the New York region, also toppled regional foes Adelphi (8-8-1, 3-3 ASC) and Hofstra (9-9-1, 6-5 America East) earlier in the year.
When asked if the team deserved to be in the tournament, Scales answered with an unequivocal “Yes.”
Twenty-eight teams received at-large bids to the tournament. Despite its ranking of 21st in the country, the Red didn’t get the call to the big dance. Cornell’s chances were perhaps hurt by the Red’s fifth-place Ivy League finish.
“It’s tough to say. It’s something that I can’t answer,” Scales responded to the question of why his team was omitted. “When it comes to putting together a national tournament, there’s always teams that will be left out.”
Penn State (13-4-1, 5-2-1 Big Ten), whom Cornell defeated earlier in the year, claimed an at-large bid and even received one of 16 first-round byes.
Two other teams from the Red’s schedule will be making an appearance in the tourney. Ivy enemies Princeton (10-2-5, 5-1-1 Ivy) and Harvard (10-4-1, 5-2 Ivy), who beat Cornell during the regular season, will be in the bracket. The Tigers, who received an automatic bid due to their Ivy title, have a bye in the first round and will be hosting a pair of games. The Crimson, who finished third in the league, will take on Rutgers (13-6-3, 7-4-1 Big East) in Round One. The winner of the contest between Harvard and the Scarlet Knights will go on to face defending NCAA champion Connecticut (15-4-2, 11-2-0 Big East).
Brown (7-7-2, 5-1-1 Ivy), who finished the season tied for first in the Ivies, missed out on the automatic Ivy bid and will not be seen in the tournament. The Bears lost the tiebreaker by virtue of a loss to Princeton in the regular season.
The Ivy League is ranked as the fifth-best conference in the country, and the selection of just two Ancient Eight schools shocked Scales.
“We were surprised to see that they took some teams from other leagues,” he said. “There’s probably five or six teams that we were surprised [were selected].”
St. John’s (14-2-3, 9-1-3 Big East), the number one team from Cornell’s region, is seeded eighth in the tournament and is the only team representing New York in the draw. The Red Storm earned its bid after becoming Big East champions.
Southern Methodist (19-0-0, 12-0-0 MVC), the nation’s only untied and undefeated team, took the top overall seed, and Virginia (17-1-1, 6-0-0 ACC), Stanford (16-1-1, 6-1-1 Pac-10), and Indiana (14-3-3, 8-0 Big Ten) round out the top four.
“If I had to pick one or two teams [as champion], I would say Virginia or Indiana,” Scales predicted.
The final four teams will compete in Columbus, Ohio, on December 14 and 16 for the Men’s College Cup.
Despite the sudden end to the season, Scales was happy with the team’s performance, especially in the second half of the campaign.
“We couldn’t ask anything else from our guys,” the coach expressed. “They’ve been terrific all season.”
Archived article by Alex Fineman