The men’s soccer team finished its season on a strong note, tying the fourth ranked team in New York, Columbia (10-4-3, 3-2-2 Ivy), on Saturday night at Berman Field 1-1. The Red (5-9-2, 2-3-2 Ivy) won its most Ivy games in three years, and most likely eliminated the Lions’ chances of an at-large bid to the NCAA College Cup.
“That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world,” said head coach Bryan Scales in reference to spoiling Columbia’s postseason hopes.
The booters have more to be proud of than that, as they displayed a lot of heart and determination, especially in the second half.
“I’m really proud of the effort that they put in tonight, and that was a real good performance for us. That’s what we’re looking for, at this stage, is the commitment and it was here tonight,” remarked Scales.
The Red got on the board early, as junior Peter Lynch slid a low shot through a defender on net that Columbia keeper Dean Arnoaoutakis saved. Freshman Ryan Imamura was there to collect the rebound, and he dished it to classmate Nick Leonard, who slammed it home from the right side for his second goal of the year.
After the goal, Cornell kept up the pressure on the offensive end, but got a scare on its defensive side when junior goalie David Mahoney collided with a Cornell defender as he went out to play the ball in the 34th minute. Junior Scott Palguta was able to clear the ball, however, to prevent Columbia from getting a shot at the empty net.
With just over a minute to play in the first half, Columbia’s Oladero Ola-Niyi received the ball to the left of the Cornell goal from Stephen Foster, and sent a strike past Mahoney for his third goal of the season.
Despite letting up a goal in the waning moments of the half, the Red came out after halftime with a lot of intensity.
“They could have folded, that’s a terrible time to give a goal up, and they came out in the second half and went after them again. We kept going forward and going forward,” said Scales.
Sophomore Kuda Wekwete made a great play in the 57th minute, as he stole the ball from a Columbia defender, and went in on a breakaway. The goalie rushed in and before Wekwete could get the shot off, he was tripped up from behind.
“I don’t know how you don’t have a penalty kick there with Kuda going in on goal, so there’s lots of calls during the game that don’t go your way, but you have to hope that they don’t determine the fate of the game,” remarked Scales.
Mahoney was tested in the 67th minute, when Thorsteinn Gestsson received the ball inside the Cornell box. He one-touched it toward the left post, but Mahoney came up with the quick save.
In the 90th minute, Mahoney made his biggest stop of the game, as he made a diving save, leaving him out of position. Columbia collected the rebound, but the shot on the open net was blocked by a Cornell defender.
“I thought we dominated the whole second half of the game, and then in the overtimes, where we had a lot of good chances to finish the game, we just didn’t,” said Scales.
The Red’s best chance in the first overtime was set up by senior Ian Pilarski. Pilarski brought the ball up the right side of the field and crossed it to Palguta on the left. He blew by the last Columbia and launched a high shot that Arnoaoutakis tipped slightly.
“When you get inside the penalty box and you have open shots on goal, it’s a matter of concentration and striking a good ball and keeping it down. It’s frustrating to miss chances inside the penalty area especially when you have so many of them, but that’s part of soccer,” commented Scales.
In the second overtime, the booters put five shots on goal, but could not find the back of the net. With three minutes to go in the second extra session, Pilarski broke in on goal after beating his defender. He launched a shot from the left that hit the outside of the goal.
“It’s going to be a long offseason for us, and although we didn’t win the game today, we have to be pleased with our performance. At least it says the guys said ‘You know what? We didn’t quit,’ and that’s the bottom line,” said Scales.
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach