While across the northeast fall brings a brilliant spectrum of colors to the trees, it was all red on the field in Hartford, Conn., yesterday as the men’s soccer team (1-3-1), exploded for a 2-0 shutout against Hartford (2-3-1) to earn its first win of the season. The victory came on the heels of heartbreaking 2-1 overtime loss to UMass (2-3-0), just two days before.
“The guys have been knocking on the door here for a ‘W.’ It took a real strong mentality to come back from a real tough loss on Friday in a game that we felt we should’ve won,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “They really did the business [yesterday] and they deserved everything they got.”
With the memory of Friday’s overtime loss still painfully fresh, Cornell came out hungry for vindication against the Hawks. The Red found it early in the first half as senior Pape Seye played a deft through-ball to classmate Kuda Wekwete. Wekwete collected the pass and, using his speed, split two Hartford defenders. In front of the net, Wekwete drilled the ball past Hawks’ keeper Bryan Carr for his second goal of the season.
Unrelenting, the Red added some insurance to its lead at the close of the first half. Junior captain Brian Scruton sent a free kick right on the mark to find junior Tom Marks circling near the Hawks’ back post. A leaping Marks sent the header home to give Cornell a two-goal lead.
Weary of a letdown, the Red continued to push hard in the second half. Strong performances in the back from sophomores Kyle Lynch and Aaron Vieira and freshman Joe Yonga helped clip the wings of the Hawks offense, while senior Jorge Rodriguez provided a creative spark in the midfield for Cornell. Freshmen keeper Steven Lesser earned his first career shutout in the win.
“In the second half we really killed the game off,” Scales said. “They put a lot of pressure on us. We continued to move the ball quickly. Guys didn’t panic and they got their first ‘W’ and I’m real proud of them.”
Cornell’s consistent performance was in marked contrast to its Friday night match against UMass. Again the Red took the early lead, as freshman Dan McKallagat connected with classmate David Browning to give Browning his first goal of the year. While the Belgian Browning pushed the Red ahead 1-0, the lead fizzled in the second half.
In the 77th minute, Minutemen sophomore Matty Lemire took a touch pass from teammate Prince Ofosu inside the Cornell box. Lemire capitalized on the opportunity, knotting the match at 1-1.
“In all honesty we let it slip away,” Scales said. “We were up 1-0 and playing great and in the second half Umass changed some things around to really put us under pressure and we didn’t really handle it as well as we should have.”
The Red out-shot the Minutemen 9-3 in the first half. However, UMass turned the tables on Cornell in the second half with 10 shots to the booter’s four.
With 2:11 remaining in the first period of overtime, UMass drove the ball down the Red’s sideline. A Cornell defender slipped while trying to make a game-saving tackle, forcing Lesser to come off his line. The ball was sent into the box and bounced around before UMass’s Mike Desantis knocked in the game winning goal.
While disappointing, the loss provided added motivation for the Red’s match against Hartford.
“You could just tell that the guys they were ready to get after another team,” Scales said. “They were glad that were able to play another game so quickly after a tough defeat like that one.”
Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer