Returning to the pitch, Paul Testa made the mistake of challenging junior co-captain Kyle Lynch of the men’s soccer team for a cross into the box. When Testa awoke in Gannet’s head trauma ward, he had a few questions.
1. What’s the deal with you redheaded soccer players? The last soccer player I interviewed, junior co-captain and defender Leslie Campbell was also sporting the carnelian locks. Is there something special about your kind?
I don’t know if the red hair does it. It could be a coincidence.
Maybe she has the Irish fire in her too.
Do you bring this Irish fire onto the pitch?
Well, I’m not intense about everything.
How would you describe yourself as player? Are you a cerebral, thoughtful player, or how would head coach Bryan Scales describe you?
Last season, coach said I was all balls and no brains, but I’d like to say my balls and my brains work in tandem on the field. I pride myself in being a very smart defender. I don’t think I’ve committed a foul this season.
Tackling is all about timing and courage. It’s a thinking game, and once the thinking is done, then it takes balls to go in for tackles, to win headers and to do anything it takes to win a game.
2. How beat up are you after a game? Are we talking Tina Turner here?
My shins and ankles are always bruised. There’s also pain in my knees, but this year I haven’t had any serious injuries to overcome.
You spend a lot of time in the air, crashing into guys. How many concussions have you had?
Since I’ve been at Cornell, I’ve only had one bad one.
It wasn’t that bad, but it was fairly bad. It was a spring game. We were playing Syracuse or St. Bonaventure — obviously, I kind of don’t remember it all. I went up for a corner kick and that was pretty much it, and then I remember opening my eyes and someone yelling, ‘Are you all right?’ I got up and kind of stumble d off sideways. I got pretty nauseous after it. Apparently, I was running at full speed, coming in for a header, and me and this kid collided heads and wrapped around each other in midair. You could hear the heads hitting on the tape. He had to get taken to the hospital from the field. I remember him moaning and screaming.
I feel like you get that a lot.
I just walked off sideways and got off the field under my own power.
No one messes with Kyle Lynch.
3. Concussions aside, you’ve seen some rough seasons at Cornell — your freshman year the team had only one win. How is this year’s squad different?
We’ve become closer and closer as a team. When I got here, the class order seemed very rigid. Now, I feel with my class, especially, like we’ve really established our personality on the team.
What’s the personality?
I don’t think any of us have ever missed a practice. We’ve never been questioned about our dedication or how hard we work, and between the four of us, we just love joking around and having fun.
I feel like that’s been the thing with recent Red teams. They’ve always had some skillful players, but they haven’t always had the chemistry.
We definitely have some very skillful players, too. We have some good young sophomores. The majority of our team is sophomores. I think we’ve had seven starting sophomores at any given time, along with a couple of seniors and a couple of juniors.
How important are those seniors?
The seniors right now that have emerged from what has taken place over the last couple of seasons are the ones who cared the most about the program and were the hardest working. They’re the ones who’ve seen the worst of Cornell soccer and have kept going. I’m very happy with the way [senior co-captain] Dan Marks, [and classmates] Tom Marks, Kiery Tuttle, and Brian Scruton have been leading this team.
4. You’re a defender who seems to score a lot. Isn’t that kind of an oxymoron?
I wouldn’t say I score a lot. I’ve really only scored a couple times a season, and this only started when I got to college. In high school I played center midfield.
Shouldn’t you’ve been scoring then?
I was scoring then, but I only played there because we didn’t have the players to play in the center midfield on my high school team. I haven’t scored with my feet in about four years.
Any normal, sane person generally tries to avoid getting hit the face with balls, but for you it seems like it’s a specialty.
Not the face.
That’s ideal. Sometimes you miss.
5. What do you think makes you successful going forward, going up on free kicks and corner kicks?
I’d say it’s probably a mixture of three things. Coach always says it’s courage and timing, and the other one is that I seem to be kind of lucky. You get a good serve in there, and for some reason I get on the end of the ball a lot of the time. Once you get up there, you can’t fear colliding with someone. Basically, I feel like I want to score more than anyone else.
You’re pretty desperate to score?
I wouldn’t say desperate, but I want it more than the defense.
Do you have a favorite server? Someone who does it up just right for Kyle Lynch?
I like the balls that are bending in toward the goal. So it would have to be a lefty from the right side and a righty from the left side. [Junior Bryan] Kuritzky has served me up some good balls. Dan Marks has too. My first goal was from [junior] Jarid Siegel, although I kind of wish it was from someone else. I wish he didn’t get an assist for my beautiful goal.
Last season you scored a huge goal against Harvard and beat those pansies 3-2. How sweet was it to knock that one into the back of the net?
That was the best feeling I’ve ever had playing in a college soccer game. I don’t even remember hitting it in. I just started sprinting around the goal. Some of my teammates gave me crap about that, but I was just so excited.
6. As a defender it’s your job to stop the goals. When you score, it’s maybe a bit of a surprise. Do you have a goal celebration planned out ahead of time? Is it spontaneous or have you choreographed a little Irish step dance routine weeks before?
For some reason, I can never think of anything. I always plan things out and tell my teammates what I would do if I ever scored — a lot of them humorous — but I never think about it when it actually happens. For some reason, I just run toward our bench. I don’t know why.
This weekend when you knock in a hat trick against Columbia, how are you going to celebrate each goal?
I don’t know about the first goal. The first goal might just be me going up to whoever served the ball because the odds of me scoring have to be off a corner kick. There’s pretty much no other way I’m going to put the ball in. For the second goal, I’m going to run over to the bench and barrel roll for coach because he gave me crap about barrel rolling in the Vermont game.
What the hell is a barrel roll?
I don’t know. Basically the ball got crossed, and I was sprinting across the box and laid out to try and block the shot. I guess I didn’t do the ideal layout. Instead, he called it a barrel roll. He still makes fun of me for it, and he said it’s the only barrel roll he’s ever seen in college soccer history. So I’m going to give him the second after I score my second goal.
For the third, I feel like you have to do something insane or something huge. Maybe a Brandi Chastain?
I would never rip my shirt off.
It’s a little over done. At Columbia, I’m definitely going to go up to their stands and do something — taunt them.
They have some rowdy fans, or at least their band is pretty in to it.
Yeah, they bring their band.
I feel like soccer and French horns don’t exactly go together.
It’s very awkward. I remember my freshman year they brought their band to one of our games, and we ended up losing, 2-0. The only time the band actually played was when we got scored on, and it was very pathetic, actually. It was demoralizing.
You’ve got some scores to settle. Watch out first trumpet.
7. You’re team trip this past spring was to Amsterdam. I don’t know if Amsterdam would be my first choice to bring a bunch of college guys. Did everyone make it back?
We didn’t stay in Amsterdam. We stayed at the KNVB compound, which is the Dutch national training center. That’s where the World Cup team trained and it’s in Zeist, which is south of Amsterdam by maybe an hour and 30 minutes.
Were you seeing a lot of windmills? What was the scenery like? Lots of dikes … like the dams.
There were a lot of windmills, but it didn’t look absurdly different.
For those of us who don’t know, how is the general culture of soccer, or football, different in Europe than in the States?
The most interesting thing I heard was from our tour guide, Franc, who was the man. He was showing us around, and I remember him saying that at some absurdly young age, at a radius of about 50 kilometers around Amsterdam, they just go take kids when they’re young and bring them into their training system. Then they just keep building them up, and just cut them off when they’re not good enough anymore.
That’s pretty harsh.
It’s weird when you think these kids have to then scrap on to second division or third division teams just to get by. Instead of going to get a really low paying retail job, it’s going to get a really low paying soccer job.
I think I’d still take AC Milano cookie over the Gap.
It’s pretty cutthroat. They build up these kids and then sell them off to bigger clubs.
Child labor at it’s finest.
8. This World Cup was consumed by the Materazzi-Zidane controversy. Is trying to get into an opponent’s head something that’s a part of your game?
Not at all.
You don’t say anything on the field?
I only respond. At the Boston University game, I tackled some kid at the top of the box, and the kid just absolutely studs me in the knee. I get up, and I was just like —
[Recording lost due to Smoothie Machine in Uris Café]
I can’t believe you said that.
I usually don’t get too mad. When people give you trouble, all you’ve got to do is —
[Strawberry banana smoothie]
What are they going to reply with? No I’m not?
Good problem solving.
Yeah, but that’s not one of the things I try to do.
Do forwards try and get into your head? Are they tugging at your jersey or making comments about your sister?
I haven’t heard anything really bad.
What about the red hair?
I get crap a lot from fans about the red hair, which angers me that our own fans don’t give more crap to other players. But whenever we’re away, I get some pretty gem lines about my hair.
They’re not really creative. Lots of cuss words. I get some O’Doyles.
9. What gets you hyped before a game? What’s on your Ipod?
I have some weird stuff on my Ipod. If I’m just sitting down listening to music, I guess Sublime, 311, stuff like that. But before a game, I can listen to basically anything that I can imagine myself going into a tackle or scoring a goal to. It ranges from any type of music. Last year, we would blast this song “My Odyssey.”
What about something maybe a little more classic, like maybe some Rod Stewart?
[Pauses, looks around]
Yeah, like “Rhythm Of My Heart.” You ever listen to that?
Absolutely, I’ve listened to that. That’s a good song.
I’ve been told that it’s in fact No. 1 on your playlist.
I’m guessing Jarid [Siegel] would have told you that, and he’s making that up.
Tell me Jarid’s favorite song.
I don’t know. Probably something by Celine Dion.
10. What’s the hottest women’s varsity team at cornell?
What do you mean “what?”
Just the way you phrased that was weird.
OK. Let’s try that again. What’s the hottest women’s varsity team at Cornell?
A lot of people, when they found out I was doing this, shot me different things. I’m going to have to say, first of all, that rugby is a sport, and this is for you Blake, Mike —
We’re not giving shout-outs to the rugby team here.
And they’re a very good looking male sport at that.
I didn’t deny that. I’m just saying under the rules of 10 Questions, they’re ineligible. I can’t believe you just tried to give a shout-out to the Rugby team. What are you like some adolescent teen girl on TRL? Let’s get back to the subject at hand.
I’d have to say, after that one cross country guy said track, I noticed the track team while we were warming up for a game. I’m going to have to say women’s track.
That seems to be the standard. It’s a pretty safe response.
What’s a risky answer? Someone today suggested that I pick a dark horse and go with equestrian.
The equestrian team’s pretty cute.
No, I agree.
Do you want to change your answer?
I don’t know. Show me some pictures of the equestrian girls.
I think anyone who can handle that kind of power between their legs has to be attractive.
Are we on the equestrian team now? Oh, I thought you were talking about me.
I wouldn’t know. Are you sticking with track?
I guess I’m sticking with track.
All right, but I think you’re missing out on a wild ride — track it is.
Paul Testa is Sun Assistant Sports Editor. 10 Questions will appear every Thursday this year, unless Paul is drawn and quartered by the equestrian team. Comments and suggestions may be sent to email@example.com.