November 23, 2004

Unhappy Ending

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2004 was a memorable season for the men’s soccer team, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. Finding its rhythm only at the end of the season, the Red struggled to a record of 1-14-1 (0-6-1 Ivy), setting a new single-season record in losses for the program.

“It’s hard to swallow,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “It’s been the worst season that our program’s had in decades. Ultimately we’re in the results business. We’re here to win championships. When you play as poorly as we’ve done this year, everything needs to be evaluated.”

The beginning stretch of the season was marked by inconsistencies and lapses against non-conference opponents. While playing brilliantly for stretches, the Red struggled to convert chances into goals, failing to sustain a high level of play for a full 90 minutes. Opponents were able to capitalize on these lapses, often scoring in the early minutes of a game to put Cornell a hole. After its first five games, the Red was left with five losses to show for its efforts.

It took a road trip to Oregon for the booters to get their first and only win of the season. Playing in his home state, sophomore Nick Leonard slammed home an overtime goal against Gonzaga to give the Red a 1-0 win. Leonard led the team in scoring this season with five points.

While the victory was a boost coming into the Ivy League season, Cornell ran into the same problems it faced early in the season entering league play. Despite dominating games for long periods of time the Red could never quite push itself into the win column. Cornell looked the strongest in its final three Ivy matches against Princeton, Dartmouth and Columbia, but it could never find the goals to produce the results. The closest the Red came to victory was a tie against Princeton the night before Halloween. Against the Tigers, junior Kuda Wekwete scored on a neat chip over the Princeton keeper to give Cornell a 1-1 tie.

“To be a championship level Division I soccer team you have to be able to score goals and prevent goals from being scored,” Scales said. “The bottom line is we scored seven and gave up 39 or 40 and that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Cornell’s seven goals scored were the least in the Ivies, while its 39 goals allowed were the most. Of the Red’s seven goals, all but Leonard’s tally against Gonzaga came after a goal by opposing teams. For Scales, the biggest factor in those statistics was the lack of a game-changing player for the Red.

“Ultimately, I didn’t think we had the game-breakers or the playmakers that we needed to get the results in our league,” Sclaes said. “Those are the guys that, when push comes to shove in the big games, they want the ball. It’s like a good quarterback or a point guard. Everybody looks to that guy to be the man.”

Looking back, there were many encouraging moments in the season. Freshmen Jarid Siegel, Evan Smith, Aaron Vieira and Kyle Lynch all made considerable contributions in their rookie seasons. Senior tri-captain Scott Palguta was a leading playmaker for the Red and was selected to the All-Ivy second team for his efforts. Juniors Papi Seye and Wekwete also proved to be a dangerous offensive combination for Cornell in the final games of the season.

Such performances are encouraging to Scales for the next season.

“I fully expect that when the guys return from Christmas break, we’ll have a group of guys that will be ready to roll up their sleeves and get back to work and start to forge a new identity and turn things around for 2005,” he said.

Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer