Their cleats punched holes in the snow-covered practice field and their feet stung while kicking frozen soccer balls. Yet, for seniors Peter Francis, Peter Lynch, David Mahoney, Sean Mendy, Scott Palguta and Steve Reuter, it was privilege to be out at practice yesterday. Even with only one game left in their soccer careers, these six were out early leading their teammates with the same professionalism and maturity that they have brought all year for Cornell.
They’ve come from a variety of backgrounds to form the core of this year’s team. Lynch, Palguta and Reuter were recruited as freshmen. Mahoney and Francis transferred from Brown and Rochester, respectively. Mendy walked on as freshman after catching the eye of head coach Bryan Scales in preseason tryouts.
“When I first walked on, it was more about soccer for me,” Mendy said. “Over the last couple of years we’ve become a lot closer and these are some of the closest people for me not just at Cornell, but in my life.”
For many of the seniors, their best year was their first year. With an overall record of 9-4-3, Cornell was ranked second in New York, had a victory over nationally ranked Penn State and was on the bubble for making the NCAA tournament. At 1-13-1, 0-5-1 Ivy, this season has been a disappointment for the Red’s seniors, but regardless of records, these six have remained a testament to what it means to compete and to be soccer player at Cornell according to Scales.
“These guys put everything they can into it,” Scales said. “They will leave a legacy not necessarily in results, but in the mentality of how to play and how to compete everyday.”
The embodiment of that mentality for Scales is his central defender Lynch. One of three captains, Lynch is among the most sound tactical defenders in the Ivy League and a source of stability for Cornell’s defense.
“Pete is the prototypical Cornell soccer player,” Scales said. “He’s made the most of his abilities. He’s honest, responsible, hardworking, and competitive and when he steps onto the field, whether it’s in training or in games, you know that you’re going to get his best.”
The backup goalkeeper Francis, whose commitment and enthusiasm to the team and soccer are seen rain or shine, in practice and in games, mirrors Lynch’s attitude.
“He’s been one of the most important players that we’ve had here as far as exuding the confidence and the enthusiasm that you need to compete on a daily basis,” Scales said. “It’s almost like he’s had five or six cups of coffee before he walks onto the field. He’s been the real soul of our team”
Francis’s enthusiasm is matched by the toughness of Mendy. Bringing his soccer skills up to par with his athletic ability, Mendy has become a spark for the Red, providing dangerous speed in the midfield.
“He’s a guy that loves to compete,” Scales said. “You can call on him in any situation and you know you’re going to get a lot out of him.”
Reuter came onto the team making an instant impact freshman year with game winning assists over Yale and Colgate. Despite struggling with injuries, he leads this year’s team in career points, with 23.
“Steven had a terrific freshman year, and he as improved over the last four years to become a more mature, level-headed, competitive athlete,” Scales said.”
Playing all four years, Palguta is another player who has made a large impact. One this year’s tri-captains, Palguta dominates the air on defense and is the source of much of Cornell’s offense along the flanks.
“He’s a guy that does things the right way,” Scales said. “He wants to be a professional soccer player and I think he’s got a real good chance.
The final of this year’s captains is Mahoney. Transferring his junior year from Brown he won the starting goalkeeper position. Playing through a serious shoulder injury, David has continued to make the saves that won him both the starting job and the trust of his teammates.
“David is one of the hardest working guys on our team. He’s the backbone of our defense,” Scales said. “He’s been a real pleasure.”
Bringing the same intensity each time they step on the field, regardless of records or scores, these six seniors defined what it means to be a Cornell soccer player through their competitiveness and their professionalism.
Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer