Famed Illinois football coach Bob Zuppke — who led the Fighting Illini to four national championships during his 29-year tenure — once said that “team guts always beat individual greatness.” The men’s soccer team — which has seen its fair share of struggles in the past few years — is finally starting to look like it has embraced this ideology.
Although the Red has only one win on the year, it heads into its Ivy League schedule brimming with confidence, coming off of a 1-1 draw against No. 19 Boston University, despite missing four starters due to injuries. And there is little doubt to anyone intimately involved with the team as to why Cornell’s program looks to be back on the rise.
“The personality of the team is completely different than it was a few years ago,” said senior Kiery Tuttle. “We’re staying positive and coming together as a team — the chemistry is much, much better.”
There is also little doubt that most of the credit for this year’s new and improved mentality falls directly on the shoulders of the team’s influential senior leaders: co-captain back Dan Marks, midfielder Tom Marks, forward Brian Scruton and back Kiery Tuttle.
“Our seniors are extremely important to our team,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “They are a small but very dedicated group that has proven to be crucial to our team both on and off the field.”
For a squad that usually starts no more than five upperclassmen, these four seniors have provided the leadership, direction, and motivation that has the Red’s ship headed in the right direction.
A prime example of the impact these players have on the rest of the team came after Cornell’s heartbreaking home-opener loss to local rival Buffalo two weeks ago. After battling the Bulls for 103 minutes, the squad had nothing to show for its mighty effort as Buffalo junior Andrae Clark buried the goal that would send Cornell’s players’ home unsatisfied.
[img_assist|nid=18383|title=Out of My Way|desc=Senior co-captain Dan Marks battles for the ball during Cornell’s match against Buffalo on Sept. 13.(Robert Bonow /Sun Photo Editor)|link=popup|align=left|width=100|height=53]“A few years ago, a loss like that would have buried the morale of the team,” Tuttle said.
“But this year our team responded by playing our best game of the season against our best competition of the season.”
Leading the group is co-captain Dan Marks who, despite not gaining significant playing time on the team until his junior year, has made his mark each year with the program.
“Dan is a one of those kids that leads by example,” Scales said. “He comes to play hard everyday and is as dedicated a worker as you can get.”
Marks anchors a Cornell defense that has proven to be one of the team’s strengths all year, and scored the lone goal in the Red’s first victory of the year against New Hampshire. His twin brother Tom brings the same work ethic and competitiveness to the field that Dan does, but also adds a dimension of versatility that has been invaluable to Cornell this season.
“Tom is an athletic, tireless worker that we can plug into a lot of different positions and still be very effective,” Scales said. “He could probably run all over the field for 180 minutes if we asked him to.”
Although quiet, what Dan Marks lacks in vocal leadership he makes up for in competitiveness.
“When he gets onto the field he brings that same intensity every time,” Tuttle said. “We joke that he yells at the refs more than he talks to the team.”
Forward Brian Scruton — who has started since his freshman year — is by far the most experienced member of the Red team, and his presence has been dearly missed up front as he recovers from a high ankle sprain that he suffered before the season began.
“Brian is a very talented forward with good feet — he passes well and knows how to play on the ball,” Scales said.
The final member of the senior quartet is back Kiery Tuttle, who walked onto the team as a freshman and has been battling injuries throughout his career. Tuttle also joins his classmates as a leader by example and will look to stay healthy all year for the first time in his collegiate career.
These four players’ competitiveness and dedication have set the tone for the team all year, instilling in the Red’s young nucleus an attitude that will help the program improve for many years to come.
“These guys are an outstanding group that has really pulled our team in the right direction,” Scales said. “They have been everything seniors should be.”