It was a bittersweet end to the careers of Cornell men’s soccer’s seniors Kuda Wekwete, Pape Seye, and Jorge Rodriguez, as the Red fell 2-0 to Columbia this past Saturday.
With their family and friends there to honor them before the game, the trio played with characteristic heart and intensity seen all season long, but it wasn’t enough to lift Cornell past a hungry Lions team looking for its first Ivy win of the season. With the loss, the Red closes out its 2005 season with a record of 3-10-2, 2-5-0 Ivy, while Columbia finishes at 4-12-1, 1-6-0 Ivy.
While the seniors packed up their gear and stepped off the grass of Berman Field for the last time, the future of the men’s soccer program lingered behind on cold benches, wondering what had gone wrong. They rehashed missed marks, broken plays, and other moments of the game, but always returned to the disappointment of such a poor end to a promising season.
“I feel absolutely horrible that we couldn’t get a win for Jorge, Pape, and Kuda,” said sophomore Kyle Lynch.
“I just really wished that we could get this game for our seniors because all the hard work and commitment that they put in over this year and over four years,” said junior Brian Kuritzky. “3-10-2 – [The seniors] don’t deserve that. They deserve a ring on their finger.”
Cornell opened the first half pushing play into Columbia’s defensive end, but the booters had trouble converting possessions into scoring opportunities. After controlling the opening minutes of the game, the Red settled into an even-sided, defensive struggle with the Lions.
“We knew it was going to be a choppy game coming in because Columbia’s really good defensively,” Kuritzki said. “We just couldn’t get it going.”
27 minutes into the match, Columbia created the first real scoring opportunity of the game. Cornell freshman goalie Steve Lesser came charging out of the net to control a loose ball at the top of the box. Colliding with a Columbia forward, Lesser was unable to hold onto the ball, which squirted out to the Lion’s Tom Davison at the top of the 18. With an open net, Davison’s shot bounced of the right post, keeping the tied at 0-0.
Cornell countered almost immediately with a chance of his own. Taking short cross out of the air, junior Tom Marks smacked a left-footed side-volley that forced Columbia keeper, Michael Testa to make a diving save to preserve the scoreless tie.
Columbia caught the Red off guard in the second half, showing itself the more aggressive of the two sides.
“I don’t think that we gave a lot of width to the game. I don’t think that we had a lot of width, especially in the second half,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “We ended up just running straight forward when we had it, instead of our flank midfielders getting wide to try and pull apart their defense.”
Just over six minutes into the second half, the Lion’s clawed their way onto the scoreboard. Winning a corner kick, Columbia dropped a ball inside the Red’s box. Unable to make the initial clear, Cornell found itself at the mercy of Columbia’s Scott Waddell who was able to punch home the Lion’s first goal.
“Any time the balls on the ground in your penalty box that’s an emergency,” Scales said.
Refusing to let the Red find its bearings Columbia added a second goal just seven minutes later. Catching Cornell off guard with a counterattack, the Lion’s leading scorer, John Mulhern, pushed the ball to Cornell’s 18 before launching a shot at Lesser. The Cornell keeper blocked the shot, but was unable to finish the save as the ball popped over his head and into the back of the net.
“The result is disappointing but I’m more disappointed in the performance. I just don’t think we showed up tonight and that’s just not a characteristic of our team which has competed all year,” Scales said. “Give credit to Columbia we knew that they were better than their record indicated.”
Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer