On a night of bizarre incidents at Berman Field, it was an unorthodox coaching decision by head coach Bryan Scales that allowed Cornell (4-6-3, 1-3-1 Ivy) to break out of a seven-game winless skid.
With 16 minutes left in a delicately poised encounter, Scales proceeded to bring on midfielders junior Kaj Hackinen and freshman Sean Shannon along with forwards junior Doug Charton and senior Scott Benowicz in an ambitious quadruple substitution. Within three minutes, the move had paid off, as freshman Peter Lynch dispatched a shot into the Princeton net for the game’s only goal.
“I felt like we needed a spark,” said Scales of the substitutions. “While it wasn’t a long period of time they were in there, I felt that they gave us a bit of energy. Sean Shannon won that corner kick, and those guys came in and filled the role for us and really did well, and we brought the other guys back in later and just hung on for dear life.”
The snow that had been descending on Ithaca for much of Saturday afternoon had come to a stop by kickoff, but the below-freezing temperature and dangerously slippery pitch hardly made for ideal conditions. Indeed, both sides struggled in the early going to keep hold of possession, as the game threatened to unravel into a contest of head tennis.
“[The pitch] changed it in that the game speeds up,” said Scales.
“It’s even faster than almost playing on Astroturf. So you really have to be careful of where you play on the field, that you don’t lose it in tough spots because there are gonna be mistakes made in a game like this. The surface was really tough to play on, but there was no way we were canceling the game.”
Ten minutes into the game, the Red had a golden opportunity to strike the first blow. Steve Reuter delivered a perfect ball over the top to put makeshift forward Scott Palguta through on goal, but the sophomore sent his effort just wide of Tigers keeper Erik White.
Chances were few and far between for the remainder of the period. Up front, Palguta and freshman Andrew George were combining well but were struggling to create clear-cut chances. At the other end, Princeton freshman Ben Young was looking lively down the right wing, but the Red’s back line was doing its best to frustrate forward Matt Douglas.
Even the normally raucous Berman Field crowd seemed subdued by a relatively low key first half, as a barging challenge from behind by Ian Pilarski on the stroke of halftime drew the biggest cheer of the half.
Within minutes of the restart, the game had suddenly taken on a frantic pace. A shot-come-cross ended up in junior Nate Dunlap’s top netting seconds into the half. Immediately at the other end, Erik White nearly handed Cornell the lead, sending his clearance straight to the feet of Pilarski. However, Pilarski’s effort was blocked, and the ensuing shot went wide.
Dunlap, making his second consecutive start in Cornell’s goal, had looked nervous on corners in the first half. However, he would more than redeem himself with a superb second half display. First, he did well to deal with a difficult free kick from the left side of the box. A minute later, he made a spectacular one-handed grab to claim a dangerous cross. At the hour mark, he made a great save at the feet of an advancing Princeton player to keep the game scoreless.
The Princeton players and coaches had been upset at some of the refereeing decisions made during the game, but their highly vocal protests would backfire, as coach Jim Barlow was bizarrely shown a red card with under half an hour to go.
Enter the four substitutes. With 13 minutes on the clock, Shannon did well to earn a corner. As Reuter sent the ball low to the edge of the area, there appeared to be little danger. However, with Princeton failing to clear the danger, the ball fell to Lynch, who drilled a low shot past White and into the net.
Back came Princeton in a frantic finale. The Tigers almost produced an instant replay of the Cornell goal on a corner, but Dunlap made a diving save to his right. With time running out, White made a foray into the Red’s half, but it was too little too late, as the full-time horn marked Cornell’s first league win of the season.
“It doesn’t matter aesthetically what it looks like, we’ll take the ‘W’ and run with it,” said Scales. “We got a break on the goal, which was terrific. We deserved a break after some of the games we’ve been through. I’m proud of the guys. They battled and battled and got a great result.”
Archived article by Soo Kim