October 1, 2004

Red Hosts Penn in League Opener

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When the Red (1-6-0, 0-0 Ivy) runs onto Berman Field tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in its opening Ivy League match against Penn (4-2-1, 0-0 Ivy), head coach Bryan Scales and the rest of the team knows that the slate of their previous seven games can almost be wiped clean.

“It’s truly the start of a new season,” Scales said. “We have had a rough opening seven games. One win out of seven is not what we were hoping but the good thing is a new season starts on Saturday night and this week provides us with a terrific opportunity to take stock of where we are and in essence, wrap up our preseason so that we can now get ready for our second season.”

In this second season consisting of toughly-fought conference battles, not only are league bragging rights and a championship on the line, but also a ticket to the NCAA national tournament — something that every team, including the Red, strives for according to tri-captain senior goalkeeper David Mahoney.

“It’s been a tough run so far but the biggest positive that you can take from it is that it’s a new season going into the Ivy League,” Mahoney said.

To accomplish this goal, the Red faces several obstacles — seven to be exact, starting with Penn this weekend. Since the Ivy League does not have playoffs and awards the NCAA birth to the league regular-season winner, Mahoney said that each conference game is vital.

In turn, this added stipulation, according to Mahoney, makes each league match even more competitive, as reflected in the games’ physical and intense play and the usual close, one-goal score lines.

“I think one of the things that young players have to be aware of for these games is that it has a real different feel than other games,” Scales said. “There’s an urgency, and a speed at which these games are played which takes some getting used to. If you don’t have the proper mentality going into these games, it’s very difficult to make that adjustment as the game is going on.”

However, Scales added that more experienced veterans on the team who have played in a number of Ivy League matches over past years have helped “facilitate an environment with the young guys that will prepare them for … on Saturday night.”

In addition, Scales said that he is encouraged by the fact that the team had put together good stretches of soccer in parts of its first seven games and noted the strong performances of the younger players and the defensive back four.

The Red will need to bring its top game against the Quakers, who are currently on a four-game unbeaten streak — a run which included a 2-1 win over then-No. 18 South Carolina. Penn, which is coming off a 1-1 draw against Loyola on Wednesday, will be looking to Quakers such as seniors Stephen Kroculick and David Maier and junior Erik Violante — players who Scales said his team will keep particularly close watch on.

In the teams’ encounter last season, a header by then-junior Peter Lynch proved to be the difference in Cornell’s 1-0 win over Penn in Philadelphia. Mahoney, who expects a tough, physical match, said that for the Red to be successful tomorrow and in League action as a whole, the team will have to win close games — something that it has struggled to do this season.

However, Scales, who emphasized the importance of the squad’s first win last Friday against Gonzaga — a 1-0 result — said that he is mostly interested in his team’s approach and mentality when taking the field against Penn. And Mahoney and his coach are confident that the Red will be ready to go tomorrow night.

“As long as our guys, when the lights go on on Saturday night, have a positive, aggressive mentality, good things can happen,” Scales said.

Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Senior Writer