The men’s soccer team’s 2003 season was a roller coaster ride from the very beginning. After putting together a five-game unbeaten streak in mid-October, the team dropped its next six games, then the season strongly with a tie against third-place Columbia. While the Red struggled to score in the latter half of the season, the team played with tremendous tenacity, finishing the season with a 5-9-2 record (2-3-2 Ivy League).
Of the team’s 16 games, only three were decided by more than two goals, including the Red’s 4-1 win in the season opener over St. Bonaventure.
“I think you can look at our season at three different stages. We got off to a good start against St. Bonaventure, dropped a few games after that as we were trying to find our lineup, and figure who would play in certain spots for us, and then we went on a five-game unbeaten streak, and confidence was high,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “Then when we went into that middle stretch of the season in October, which is always a difficult time for anyone on the team with prelims and all sorts of distractions, and we just couldn’t score goals and couldn’t finish off our chances.
The Red placed three players on the All-Ivy team. Senior tri-captain Ian Pilarski became the first Cornell midfielder to be named to the first team since 1986, and finished the season with four assists. Pilarski’s 15 career assists places him fourth on the all-time list. Junior Peter Lynch was named an All-Ivy honorable mention, and was one of the most solid performers on the team throughout the season. His goal in the opening minutes against Penn was all the offense the Red needed, as it shut out the Quakers.
Transferring from Brown at the beginning of the year, junior goalie David Mahoney was also named an All-Ivy honorable mention. He notched four shutouts on the year, including two in conference play, and registered a 1.54 goals against average, starting every game for the Red.
Of the team’s wins this season, none was bigger than the Red’s 1-0 defeat of the then-No. 15 Yale Bulldogs in New Haven, Conn. This was the first win at Yale for Cornell since 1978.
“It was a big win for us. Yale finished second in the league, we were their only loss. For us to win down there [for the first time] in 28 years, that’s a big mental hurdle that the guys were able to get over,” said Scales.
The team’s five seniors — Pilarski, Evan Wiener, Arturo Solis, Matt Blumenstyk, and Kaj Hackinen — all provided veteran leadership during some of the difficult portions of the season.
“I thought that the seniors did a remarkable job, especially when things weren’t going well. Those guys have all been four-year players for us, so they put so much into this program that they weren’t going to just hang out and take the foot off the pedal when things weren’t going will towards the end of the season,” said Scales. “They drove the group, they pushed everybody in practice, they did all the things on the field and off the field that I expected of them, and they’ll be missed.”
While the team heads into the long offseason, the coaching staff and players are starting to prepare for next fall. In the past, Scales has visited European clubs to study and learn new training techniques.
“We watch a lot of professional games, we may go abroad at some point and spend some time with some clubs, we may go out to Chicago to spend time with Dave Sarachan [’76], to watch the Chicago Fire for a little bit, so it’s to be determined. We’re always on the lookout for new ideas and different points of view.”
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach