Thank goodness for moms. Men’s soccer senior captain Liam Hoban had played his first two games sans lucky shin guards, but thanks to a timely care package from his mother he was able to use them in last night’s home opener. Appropriately enough, it was Hoban who netted the winning goal, converting on a penalty kick with under 10 minutes remaining in regulation to give the Red (1-1-1, 0-0 Ivy) a 2-1 victory over St. Bonaventure (3-2).
Touted for their speedy tempo, the Bonnies were unable to generate sustained possession throughout most of the first half thanks to a Cornell defense that was in fine form. The Red’s defensive tenacity translated to the other side of the ball. Cornell nearly drew first blood just inside the 12th minute. Junior Ian Pilarski eluded his defender but lost his footing and was only able to muster a weak shot. Freshman midfielder Andrew George collected the ensuing rebound, but his shot fell just wide.
Despite lapses at times, the Cornell back four in Hoban, freshman Brian Pink, sophomore Scott Palguta and junior Evan Wiener were integral to the Red’s success both early and late in the game.
“They are amazing,” senior goalkeeper Doug Allan said. “The four of them work very hard. I can’t say enough about them.”
Head coach Bryan Scales elected to start rookie Sean Shannon in the midfield again. Shannon did not disappoint. His aggressiveness was a catalyst for a Cornell offense that pressured the Bonnies throughout the first half.
The play of all the freshmen, particularly Pink, Shannon and George belied their youth. Said Allan, “You can’t tell they are freshmen. They are really picking it up.”
George, who started his third consecutive game, was impressive for Cornell. The Red fanned on a golden opportunity moments later. Pilarski controlled the ball and sent a well-placed feed for sophomore Steve Reuter. Reuter raised a few eyebrows with a gorgeous centering pass to George, whose header inexplicably missed the net.
It was symptomatic of the Red’s inability to capitalize on scoring chances that hampered it in its first two games, and for the better part of the match with St. Bonaventure.
“We had a lot going on in front of the goal, but we weren’t putting it away,” Hoban said.
“I thought we had some good attacking options and moved the ball well, but we couldn’t finish our chances,” added Scales.
The Bonnies appeared to awake following the near score and their first sustained offensive possession came soon after. Allan proved himself worthy of all the accolades he garnered in the preseason, confidently stopping a strike off the leg of Jahmal Cameron.
Play evened out toward the later part of the first half and into the early stages of the second half, with Cornell appearing fatigued.
“We weren’t mentally fit,” Allan said. “They kept coming. We got more tired.”
As the teams headed into intermission, the scoreboard still indicated a scoreless tie. The Bonnies were able to permeate the Cornell defense early in the second stanza. Nine minutes into the half Ryan Hallenback broke free and sent a wide angle shot toward Allan, but the senior answered the call again as he continued to do throughout the game.
“That’s his job description: make big saves when needed and make all the routine ones,” Scales said. “He did that tonight.
Three minutes later, Cornell was finally able to make the advantage it had held all evening show on the scoreboard. George started the sequence, rushing toward the St. Bonaventure goal, but he was taken down by a Bonnies defender. On the ensuing restart, Pilarski, who had moved the ball well all night, sent a beautiful strike which hit off the crossbar. Sophomore Peter Lynch was well-positioned to collect the rebound and head it home to give the home side a 1-0 advantage.
The Red’s lead was short-lived. Three minutes later, the Bonnies’ John Phoumanny took control of the ball inside the box and connected with Ryan Ercoli, who beat Allan far side.
Once the Bonnies potted the equalizer, the game opened up wide. Cornell had its chances but appeared tentative at times and unable to capitalize at others. With 20 minutes remaining in regulation, a tussle developed in front of the St. Bonaventure keeper, but the Red was unable to put the ball home.
Moments later, Pilarski had another beautiful pass, this one to junior Doug Charton. Charton was taken down and it appeared a penalty kick was in order, but instead the ball was spotted outside the box for a free kick. On the ensuing shot, it appeared the Bonnies should have been called for a handball, but play continued. The visitors nearly took the lead when Andy Garcia drew Allan out of the net, but his shot went wide.
After Hoban had scored on the penalty kick, the Bonnies continued to fight valiantly, but the Cornell defense stayed impenetrable and continued strong play from Allan sealed the victory.
Archived article by Gary Schueller