November 11, 2005

Men's Soccer Will Finish Year Against Columbia

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The men’s soccer team’s season is nearing the end, but not before one final home game tomorrow, as the Red will host Ivy League rival Columbia at Berman Field at 4 p.m. Without the prospect of making it to any postseason tournament, the game will be the last for seniors Jorge Rodriguez, Pape Seye and Kuda Wekwete.

“We will miss the three seniors that are leaving. They mean a lot to our program and it will be tough to replace them,” said junior Brian Scruton.

Cornell’s season was an up-and-down rollercoaster ride, with extreme highs and cavernous lows. The team opened the year on the wrong foot, as the Red remained winless four games into its season. After securing its first win against Hartford two weeks in, the squad seemed to be going in the right direction.

The Red won its first two matches against Ancient Eight teams – beating nationally-ranked Penn, 2-1, and Harvard by scoring a season-high three goals in a 3-2 decision. At that point, Cornell found itself in a tie for first place – spirits were high, and the sense of optimism was palpable.

But the joy ride ended soon thereafter, as the Red lost its next five games, four at the hands of league teams. The team’s hopes of winning the Ivies had slipped away after one of the most encouraging starts in recent history.

Going into this weekend’s final game, Cornell recognizes and accepts what could have been, but remains focused on the task at hand – beating Columbia, capping its season with a win, and walking off the field on a high note.

“We look back at this season and we’re a bit discouraged and it’s tough,” Scruton said. “If things had gone our way, this game would be for the Ivy title, but it’s not. It’s frustrating at the end of the season knowing we are playing good soccer and that we played well all season for the most part. But we’ll try and take out all our anger on the field against Columbia, and end the year with a victory.”

Although Cornell’s record is not what it had hoped for, the team insists that does not mean the season was unproductive.

“We don’t want to think of any year as a rebuilding year, but I think this year we definitely took a big step in the right direction as far as the future of this program,” Scruton said. “A lot of times this year our young guys showed they aren’t new to the game, and played like veterans with just one year of experience, so we are confident that we will be a real dangerous team in the league next year. We’ll all keep working during the off-season and we’ll see what happens a year from now.”

Columbia (3-12-1, 0-6-0 Ivy) travels to Ithaca still searching for its first league win of the season. The Lions have had a forgettable year, losing all six of their Ivy matches. However, as has been the case with Cornell in the past, Columbia’s dismal record understates its quality of play. The team has lost five of those six league contests by a score of 1-0. That being said, the Lions’ offense has not exactly been doing its part to help win games. Columbia is averaging a woeful .60 goals per game, scoring a combined total of nine all season long. However, as bad as the team’s offense has been, its’ defense has played well top to bottom, allowing a respectable 1.33 goals per game on average over its 16 matches.

“We try and approach [Saturday] like any other game,” Scruton said. “We can’t take [Columbia] lightly at all. A couple times this year we knew we had the talent to win games but didn’t outplay [our opponent] and it ended up costing us the match. We didn’t win a single Ivy game last year but we knew we could still play, so we know how they feel. They’ve lost a lot of games, and it’s tough to find a win when you’re losing so many close games. So now that we are on the other side of the coin, we need to take advantage of those things, play hard, and hopefully walk off the field with a win.”

Archived article by Ben Kopelman
Sun Staff Writer