Although the men’s soccer team has struggled over the past few seasons, there is reason for optimism with this year’s squad as a large group of young and talented players logged significant playing time in 2005.
Of the 12 freshman head coach Bryan Scales brought in to resurrect his program last year, five went on to earn letters and a majority of the other youngsters also made valuable contributions.
“It is very unusual in the Ivy League to ask freshman to play as big a role as we did last year,” Scales said. “But by doing so they had to grow up quickly, and I have already seen some dramatic improvement from them this year. We will definitely reap the benefits of that decision over the next few seasons.”
On the offensive side of the ball Cornell will have to do without its most experienced player, senior Brian Scruton — who went down with a third-degree ankle sprain and could miss significant time this season. To replace his production, sophomores Dana Flanders and Marcelo Guindon — each of which has the potential to be valuable contributors to the offense — will have to grow up quickly and lead the offense. Junior Brian Kuritzky will also be an important contributor as an experienced player up front.
The midfield unit will have the difficult task of attempting to replace last year’s two leading goal scorers, Kuda Wekwete ’06 and Pape Seye ’06. This task will mostly fall on the shoulders of senior Tom Marks — who was third on the team last season with five points.
“We don’t really care who steps up to fill that goal scoring void,” Scales said. “I just know we have enough talented guys that I am not worried about it.”
Sophomore Joe Yonga — who was named All-Ivy honorable mention in 2005 — will also look to build on the experience he gained playing significant time as a freshman.
Anchoring Cornell’s defense for the third straight year is senior co-captain Dan Marks — who started 15 games a season ago — and junior co-captain Kyle Lynch, who was third on the team last year with two goals. Both players have been defensive stalwarts since arriving at Cornell and will play an integral role in leading the Red out of its recent funk.
“Both of our captains are very strong personalities and leaders by example,” Scales said. “I have no doubts they will do a fine job leading our club this year.”
The defensive unit — which looks to be the strength of the Red team this season — will also include junior Aaron Vieira and sophomore Graeme Webber in the mix, both of whom performed well in reserve roles last year.
In net, last year’s starter, sophomore Steve Lesser, is battling meniscus problems with his knee and may be out for most of the season. In his place sophomore Luca Cerretani has stepped into the starting role and performed admirably so far, making 11 saves and accumulating a respectable 0.95 goals against average in three games. Fellow classmate Matt Bullough, who along with Cerretani traveled with the team to Holland this past Spring break, will also battle for playing time.
“I am really excited about the direction the program is headed in,” Scales said. “We have another very good freshman class coming in and I would not be surprised if the program made another big jump this year. Who knows, we could even be at the top.”