Despite having no impact on either team’s league record, last night’s game at Berman Field between the men’s soccer team and Penn State had all the characteristics of an intense rivalry. While Cornell put forth a strong team effort, it wasn’t enough, as the squad fell to the Nittany Lions, 2-1, in a very physical contest. Cornell’s record drops to 3-6-2 (2-1 Ivy) on the year, while Penn State improves to 7-6-2 (4-0 Big Ten).
Penn State opened the match with the upper hand by keeping the ball in the Red’s side of the field for the first five minutes of the game. However, Cornell was able to change the momentum with a high pressure defense that forced several Penn State turnovers.
“If you give good teams time and space on the ball they become great,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “We knew Penn State was a good team so we needed to really do a good job of pressuring the ball.”
Led by freshman sweeper Joe Yonga, the Red’s defense was able to frustrate Penn State’s speedy offense, containing the Nittany Lions’ forwards Jason Yeisley and Simon Omekanda for most of the night.
“We knew they were good players but we have confidence in ourselves,” Yonga said. “We work hard in practice with our one-on-one defending, and we come out in the game and we just try and translate that onto the field.”
The Red’s best scoring chances of the first half came from the hands of junior Kiery Tuttle, who’s long distance throws into the box were as good as free kicks for Cornell.
“Kiery can chuck it; he can really throw it,” Scales said. “It’s a dangerous [option] for us.”
While Cornell controlled much of the tempo in the first half, it was Penn State who was able to score first in the 30th minute of the match.
Off a short throw-in deep in Cornell’s defensive third, Penn State brought the ball back up the left sideline to Jeff Chambers. Chambers sent in a bending cross that found Jason Yeisley at the back-post for the score. The goal is Yeisley’s team leading seventh on the year.
The Red came out a bit sluggish in the second half, and the Nittany Lions quickly added another goal to their lead just eight minutes in.
David Walters sent a free kick from 30 yards out that found a diving Geordie MacNeill for the goal. “I think both goals were the same goals, both played in and flicked past [freshman goalkeeper Steven Lesser],” Scales said.
Cornell drew within one in the 64th minute off a goal from senior Pape Seye. Freshman Kevin Vieira forced a turnover from Penn State in its own half and played the ball down to junior co-captain Brian Scruton on the right side. Scruton quickly switched the point of attack, sending the ball to Seye open at the top of the box. With a quick strike, Seye sent the ball into the upper right corner of the net.
“It was a terrific build up,” Scales said. “Pape’s been big for us this year. He’s scored some big goals for us.”
While the Red sent numbers forward in the closing minutes of the match it was unable to find the equalizer. Despite the loss, Scales feels satisfied with the performance of his team and believes his squad is well positioned for this Saturday’s matchup against first place Brown.
“I thought we deserved to win that game,” said Scales. “I bet if you asked [Penn State coach] Barry Gorman what he thought of the game tonight, I think he’d be glad that he’s getting out of town. I think tonight said to [the team] ‘Hey you guys can play with anybody in the country.”
Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer