While Bryan Adams’ “The Summer of ’69” played before the game, it looked more like the glory days of the fall of ’95 on the field for the Cornell men’s soccer team, as the Red battled Colgate to a 1-1 overtime tie in its annual clash with Colgate on Saturday night. Senior Kuda Wekwete knocked home the first goal of the season for Cornell, while sophomore Kyle Lynch led an overall solid defensive effort.
The pre-game classic rock kitsch was courtesy of alum and former assistant coach Rob Elliot ’97 who bought the mix at a five-and dime. The music was part of an overall tribute in honor of the 10th anniversary of the 1995 men’s soccer season. Coming off a 2-10-3 season, the team went 15-2-1, winning the Ivy League with a 6-1 mark and earning Cornell’s first birth to the NCAA tournament since 1980.
“That ’95 team was a special group of guys. They were a real team that went through a lot of [expletive] together,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “For those guys to come back for this night tonight, it sent a message to our guys: It doesn’t matter how things go in the past. You’re representing the program and things are going to happen for you.”
The booters continued to progress from their previous matches, consistently pressuring Colgate throughout the first half. Cornell’s hard work paid off when the Raiders finally succumbed to the Red’s pressure, as Wekwete scored in the 42nd minute of the first half.
Streaking down the left side of the field, junior Tom Marks drew his defender out wide. Cutting sharply back into the box with his right, Marks sent a perfect service to the head of Wekwete inside the box. Although tightly marked, Wekwete leapt over his defender, pounding the header into the lower right of the net.
Wekwete’s goal ended a streak of over 250 scoreless minutes by Colgate keeper Doug Litvack.
“I didn’t know the stats. It feels good now though, not to be cruel or anything,” Wekwete said. “In the past two games we’ve had chances, but didn’t really get that extra something. We were just trying to get behind their defenders and bombard their defense as much as possible.”
Coach Scales was immensely pleased with the scoring effort of his team and compared the play of Marks to that of storied Arsenal midfielder Robert Pires.
“The goal that we scored was a terrific goal, and it was a huge relief for the guys to get it out of the way,” he said.
Although frustrated by the Red defense, Colgate continued to compete, shifting the momentum in their favor early in the second half. Earning a corner kick, the Raiders maintained possession after Cornell failed to clear its defensive zone.
Receiving a ball from Kevin Toomey, Colgate’s Devin Deane took full advantage, burying a shot to the far post to beat freshman goaltender Steve Lesser.
“We were putting them under pressure at the start of the half and got fortunate and were able to bang one home,” said Colgate head coach Eric Ronning.
The score remained notched at 1-1 as regulation expired. Both teams mounted several quality scoring drives in overtime, but were unable to break the tie, due to the strong defensive efforts put forth by both squads.
Crucial to halting the Colgate offensive was the play of Lynch. With minutes remaining in the second overtime period, Lynch made a game-saving tackle, stripping Colgate forward Bryant Meckley of the ball and preventing what would have been a one-on-one with the goalie and a terrific scoring opportunity.
“I knew I couldn’t get the ball before [Meckley] got there. I guessed that he would take a bad first touch because there’s no one else there with him and he had to go to goal,” Lynch said. “When he took that first touch I was already sliding in for it.”
Lynch’s effort was part of an overall strong performance by the Red that impressed the coaches on both sides of the field.
“I thought [Cornell was] very good. They work extremely hard, they’re organized, they’re young and they’re going to be getting a bunch of wins this year,” Ronning said.
“It was just a good college soccer game, back and forth,” Scales said. “I felt like tonight we took another step forward. We’re disappointed to tie a game like that in front of our home crowd, but I feel good about this.”
Assistant coach Chip Warner was equally disappointed with not the getting the win over his former team.
“I wouldn’t say I was pleased with the outcome,” Warner said. “I think the boys played well, but I bleed red now.”
Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer