September 3, 2004

Men's Soccer to Start Season Against Lehigh

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Even though tri-captain senior defender Scott Palguta has earned years of battle wounds, tough defeats and struggles, there is no doubt he’s ready for the men’s soccer team’s first game of the season tonight against Lehigh.

“I still get excited for every game,” Palguta said. “We’re super fired up. Everyone’s been waiting for this game since the last one.”

Justifiably so, since the Red last ended on a sour streak — losing six out of its last seven games in the second half of the 2003. But Palguta, men’s head coach Bryan Scales and the rest of the team are looking at the 2004 season as an opportunity to turn a new leaf — and the Red will hope to use tonight’s game to open the season on the right foot. “We want to win,” Palguta said. “I think we’ve had a really good preseason and that’s the bottom line — we want to turn this thing around.”

The key to earning an important first win might rely on which team adjusts to the speed of a real game according to Scales. Although Palguta and other teammates went to scout Lehigh in a preseason game last week and are familiar with the Mountain Hawks 4-4-2 formation, tight defense and well coached side, Scales notes that both teams will suffer from the lack of real match play.

On the other hand, the Red will benefit from new Ivy League regulations which enable it to start its regular season earlier. Although it has only trained for less than two weeks, Lehigh will also be playing its first match of the season — a fact, Scales said, that will affect both teams.

“It’ll take us a little while to really get into a good rhythm,” Scales said. “We’re excited to start strong [tonight]. You can train and practice all you want but you only get better by playing games and so these games at the beginning of the season are very important.”

Last season, the Red had trouble getting the ball in the back of the net — a problem which was especially highlighted when it only managed three goals in their last seven games. To add to the Red’s potential difficulty tonight, it will be going up against senior Lehigh goalkeeper Sam Bishop. Bishop, who was a second team All-Patriot League selection last year, allowed a stingy 0.64 goals per game — a Lehigh record.

Yet, Scales is particularly confident that his team will be able create more scoring opportunities. Leading the line are forwards Nick Leonard and Kuda Wekwete — two players Scales predicts will cause problems for Lehigh as well as other teams this season. In addition, to stop the progress of the Lehigh attack, Scales is depending on the senior captain triumvirate of defenders Palguta, Peter Lynch at the back and goalkeeper David Mahoney as well as younger players looking for opportunities to move forward.

“It is always difficult to break teams down that are organized and it will give us an opportunity to see number one, what type of attacking team we have, number two, what kind of imagination we can have in putting together combinations and get forward and get goals. And it will be a very good test for us to see how we can break down other teams,” Scales said.

Lehigh, which earned a 9-4-7 record last season and appeared in the Patriot League’s championship game, shut out ten opposing teams in the 2003 season. Similar to Scales however, Lehigh head coach Dean Koski knows that it will take his team some time to shake off the cobwebs of the offseason.

“It’s not going to be high level soccer,” Koski said. “I expect Cornell to be very technical, very organized and very competitive.”

With seven games in September, it is especially important for the team to get to a good start, according to Mahoney — especially with rivals Syracuse and Colgate waiting in the wings over the next week. But, he and his excited teammates have faith in the squad’s abilities. “It’s definitely nice to get rolling and get off to a good start,” Mahoney said. “We’re definitely confident that we’re going to win.”

Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Senior Editor