The Cornell men’s soccer team (3-5-2, 2-1 Ivy) plays host to a resurgent Penn State squad tonight at 7 p.m. on Berman Field.
Penn State opened its season a dismal 0-4-1 record, but has since gone 4-0 in the Big Ten with a current record of 6-6-1. While clawing their way back to .500, the Nittany Lions notched one-goal wins over Indiana and Maryland, ranked respectively fifth and sixth in the nation at the time.
“We know Penn State’s a very good team,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “They’re very good on the ball and they play very quickly. They have a number of very athletic guys up top that we’ll have to deal with. It’ll be a good challenge for us.”
The Red takes the field just three days after a tough 2-0 loss to Yale last Sunday. Despite the short period between games, Scales thinks his team will be physically and mentally ready for tonight’s match.
“The team looked fine [yesterday in practice]. I don’t think fatigue will be a factor, I think the guys are excited to play a team like Penn State,” Scales said.
The midseason match-up with the Nittany Lions has become a fixture in the booters’ schedule in recent years. Last year, Penn State handed Cornell a 3-0 defeat, in which mental lapses and uneven play made all the difference for the Red. Scales feels confident that this year’s squad can produce a different result.
“We certainly can win the game if we play well. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Scales said. “We know most of their guys. I think we’re pretty clear on who they have and what those guys can do.”
One face the Red won’t be familiar with is that of Penn State’s star freshman forward Jason Yeisley. The team’s leading scorer with six goals on the season, Yeisley was named to both Soccer America’s and College Soccer News’ National Teams of the Week for his two goals against Indiana in late September. Right behind Yeisley in scoring is speedy junior Simon Omekanda, who leads the team in assists with five.
As a team, Penn State averages 14 shots per game, but is averaging only .94 goals per game compared to Cornell’s 1.14 goals per game.
Defensively, Penn State gives up about 12 shots per game, and relies heavily on the play of sophomore goalkeeper Conrad Taylor. Taylor boasts a stingy .81 goals against average and has recorded five shutouts on the year.
Although tonight’s game has no effect on Cornell’s Ivy League aspirations, Scales expects his team’s intensity level to be high for the match.
“We’ve preached all year round that we take it 90 minutes at a time and for us, this is the game that’s up in front of us,” he said. “It’s not an Ivy League game, but if you can’t get up to play [against] Penn State, then you’re not wired right.”
Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer