It’s a whole new season now, and the men’s soccer team knows it. The Red (1-3-2) plays its first Ivy League match tomorrow evening against a talented Columbia squad (4-3-0).
“Saturday night in New York City, under the lights down in Columbia. If you can’t get up for that game, you need to have your pulse checked,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “I really don’t want to make a big mystery out of it. It’s our first Ivy League game and I think the guys are very excited to be going down [there] to start the season.”
Last year, Columbia defeated Cornell, 2-0, in Ithaca to condemn the Red to a two-win, seventh-place league finish. But this year’s Lions squad has a new coach and a new makeup.
“I think they’ll be very hardworking. They’ll be a team that is very competitive, but it’s their first Ivy League game too,” Scales said. “The Ivy League games feel and look a lot different than these opening season games, and we’re going to be going down in New York City to play a tough Columbia team. It’s going to be a different atmosphere than it was last weekend.”[img_assist|nid=18486|title=Great Dana|desc=Sophomore forward Dana Flanders (11) sheds defenders in a game earlier this season against (Robert Bonow / Sun Photo Editor) Buffalo.|link=popup|align=right|width=69|height=100]
Last weekend, the Red earned a dramatic, come from behind tie with then-No. 19 Boston University. Rookie J.J. Bain scored Cornell’s goal on a cross from fellow freshman Matt Devitt only six minutes after Boston had taken the lead. Despite the fireworks and late-game struggle, Scales believes that game’s outcome will have little bearing on the team’s momentum, confidence or play going into this weekend’s action.
“I don’t think that it gives us an indication of anything … good or bad,” Scales said.
More important to Scales are the rash of injuries his team has faced. Many players are battling minor injuries, while some are just trying to make it back to full fitness after long injury layoffs. Scales was quick to admit his lineup will be a departure from the usual.
“I’d say that we are a little better than we were last week,” Scales said of his squad’s injuries. “We’ve got a number of guys that are carrying some injuries. I still think that for a few players, it’s going to be a game too early for them to come back.”
The team has been focusing on improving its offense and shoring up its solid defense, while not trying to stress over Columbia. Cornell has only allowed two goals in its last three games, but has only managed to score the same total as well. Columbia, on the other hand, has won its last two contests, scoring five goals over two games.
Columbia’s Tom Davison and Chris Wales do most of the shooting for Columbia, having taken 14 and 15 shots, respectively. Davison has three goals and an assist on the season, and Wales has three goals as well. John Mulhern leads the Lions with four assists and is a focal point of Columbia’s offense.
Nonetheless, Scales is far more concerned with his own squad than the individual matchups the game presents on paper.
“We’ve seen Columbia play a number of times already. We think that they’re a very good team,” he said. “We are prepared for them. We know their personnel. But we also have got to expect our guys to go out there and play their game too.”
The Red’s attack is rather different than the Lions’, as five different players have scored all five of the Red’s goals this season. Leading the Cornell attack up front will be junior Brian Kuritzky, whose three shots on goal paces the team, and sophomore Dana Flanders. Flanders is tied for the team lead in goals (one), assists (one), and leads the team in points (three).
“We’re creating some pretty good chances. Now we just have to make sure we can finish off a few of them,” Scales said. “I think Dana Flanders has been pretty dangerous for us over the last few weeks.”
On defense, senior co-captain Dan Marks and junior co-captain Kyle Lynch lead the way for the Red. Sophomore goaltender Luca Cerretani has been stellar in goal all season, most recently tallying nine saves in Boston.
“When you go down to Columbia, it’s a difficult place to play,” Scales said. “So, we’ve stressed during the week to just keep our concentration. We’ve stressed doing a good job on the ball, making sure that we’re competing for everything.”