September 26, 2002

In Position

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If you talk to men’s soccer head coach Bryan Scales about the outlook for his team, the first two words you’ll hear are “depth” and “excitement.” Indeed, after a quick glance at the roster, it’s hard not to agree.

“We have probably the most depth that we have had in quite some time,” Scales said. “We have a lot of different guys who have been challenging for positions. That’s very healthy for the program.”

After starting off last season modestly, Cornell assembled the pieces toward the end of the season, compiling a 9-4-3 mark, a No. 22 national ranking, and a snub by the NCAA.

The backbone of the team will be the small group of senior leaders. Although they number just four, Scales lauds the veteran corps for the great influence they have had on the club both on and off the field. Doug Allan returns as the Red’s starting keeper after an All-Ivy campaign last year. He has been dubbed a potential All-America candidate by the coaching stuff.

“I think Doug has to be considered one of the top 10 goalkeepers in the country,” said Scales.

Junior Nathan Dunlap and sophomore transfer Peter Francis, who arrives on the East Hill from the University of Rochester, will back up Allan.

Classmate and captain Liam Hoban will quarterback the defensive corps, the nucleus of a stingy Cornell team. Hoban will be counted on to unite the team’s efforts. He is also one of the team’s best options on free kicks.

Hoban will be joined by a trio of players who each bring a unique ingredient to a recipe that has produced one of the most tenacious defenses in the country.

Senior Evan Weiner, who will start on the right side, is an athletic type, tabbed for his hard-tackling style. Across the field from Weiner will be one of the team’s freshmen, Brian Pink. Pink has dazzled in his first four games of the season, erasing any doubts about his youth by playing through overtime in the season opener at Notre Dame. In the team’s first home game, he held St. Bonaventure’s most prolific player scoreless. In the middle of the group will be sophomore Scott Palguta, a strong defender with a credible soccer brain.

Scales praised Palguta: “I think he is one of the best players in the entire Ivy League. He can do it all: win head balls, score goals. He is a complete athlete.”

How versatile is Palguta? Just look back to last year’s game against Syracuse. Palguta started the contest. In the overtime session, Scales had such confidence in his then-freshman he moved him to forward. He scored the winning goal in the contest. Still not convinced? Palguta, along with junior midfielder Ian Pilarski, led the Cape Cod Crusaders, a minor league summer club, to the national title, culminating a season that included matches with MLS teams.

The midfield, may very well have the most question marks of any part of the club, but its leader, Pilarski, is one of the most exciting players to watch on the team. Speedy and dynamic, he has an exceptional vision of the field and will look to capitalize on his striking ability.

“Ian is our playmaker,” Scales said.

Among those competing for spots in the midfield are sophomore Peter Lynch, junior Arturo Solis, and freshman Wyatt Nelson. On the right side, senior Kevin London will look to cap off a strong career. Feisty junior Kaj Hackinen will play across the field and has the potential to be an explosive addition to the group.

Despite the loss of Ted Papadopoulos ’02, Scales doesn’t feel his offense is anemic. Sophomore Steve Reuter returns after a terrific freshman season.

“He can be a very dangerous player who can score a hatful of goals for us,” Scales said.

Freshman Andrew George, senior Scott Benowicz, and junior Doug Charton are others the coaching staff cites as legitimate scoring threats.

“They are not all proven goal scorers yet, but I think they will give other teams problems and definitely give us our chances,” Scales said.

Perhaps even more exciting than the Red’s proven talent is the latent potential of a class of eight rookies who have raised a few eyebrows early in the season. George has already earned a starting slot in the midfield and has not disappointed. He has proven himself to be a viable scoring option with his aggressive style and has become a catalyst for the Cornell offense. It didn’t take long before Scales’ confidence in him paid dividends: George netted the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Adelphi Saturday.

“He is athletic. He connects well with the rest of the group on the field,” Scales said.

Archived article by Gary Schueller