The early goal has killed the men’s soccer team this year, but Saturday the Red had the answer, equalizing in the 60th minute to earn a 1-1 tie against then Ivy-leading Princeton. With the tie Cornell moved to 1-10-1, 0-4-1 Ivy on the season while Princeton stands at 7-4-4, 2-1-2 Ivy, dropping from first to third in the Ivy League.
“I was very proud of the effort and the mentality [the team] brought to the game,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “They could’ve punched out after we were losing 1-0 and said: ‘Here we go again,’ but instead they battled.”
Cornell came out hard in the early minutes of the game, pressing the Tigers into their defensive third. With Princeton playing a high defensive line, the Red was able to use the speed of its forwards to get behind the Tigers’ defenders and create several early scoring opportunities.
However, Princeton withstood Cornell’s opening rush and eventually took back the momentum. In the 28th minute, capitalizing on a breakdown in Cornell’s defense, Ben Young took the ball toward the Cornell end line. Splitting two defenders, he sent a cross back through the Red’s box that found a waiting Darren Spicer at the far post to put Princeton up 1-0. The goal was Spicer’s 12th on the season.
Cornell had several chances to equalize before half, but Princeton goalkeeper Erik White came up with some impressive saves to preserve the one-goal lead. White had nine saves on the night, while his counterpart, senior David Mahoney had eight.
The second half began with more Cornell chances, but it appeared the game was heading for an all too familiar outcome for the Red. All that changed in the 60th minute, when Princeton lost possession on a throw-in deep in its own end. Taking the ball, sophomore Brian Scruton drove towards the Princeton net and then sent a pass back to the junior Kuda Wekwete, running on near the far post. Collecting the ball, Wekwete neatly chipped a shot over the hands of Princeton’s diving White to knot the game at 1-1.
“I was just looking to penetrate there and find whoever I could running off me,” Scruton said. “A guy stepped to me and Kuda made a nice run.”
The first goal of the season for Wekwete, he celebrated by crawling on his knees towards the corner flag while his cheering teammates swarmed to congratulate him.
“It’s been a while since I’ve scored,” Wekete said. “I haven’t scored for Cornell yet so it was do-or-die there.”
Energized by the equalizing goal, the Red pressed hard for a second goal, earning a total of five corner kicks in the second half.
“We had about ten chances to win that game,” Scales said. “We just couldn’t get the second goal.”
Instead, the game went to double overtime, with Cornell generating six shots to Princeton’s one in the final 10-minute overtime period. Junior, Pape Saye, sending a header just over the crossbar, had one of the best chances of the overtime for the Red.
Cornell had a season-high 18 shots on the night. Instrumental in that performance was senior tri-captain Scott Palguta. Playing on the left side of the defense, Palguta provided the base for many of the Red’s attacks along the left sideline.
“He’s good getting forward,” Scales said. “He’s got a good left leg and he really springs guys from that position.”
Palguta was quick to shift the focus of the Red’s success from himself to the rest of the team. “I think the key was that it wasn’t just a few guys stepping up tonight, it was ever body,” Palguta said. “Everybody who was on the field really put everything they could into it tonight.”
Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer