Besides the theft of his beloved Gianluigi Buffon jersey, there seems to be nothing that can rattle men’s soccer sophomore goalkeeper Luca Cerretani.
Cerretani’s journey to his position as starting goalkeeper has been much longer than the distance from his hometown of McLean, N.Y., a stone’s throw from Ithaca. A former field player who only converted to goalkeeper his senior year of high school, Cerretani did not see the field as a walk-on last year. And with two other solid goalkeepers on the roster, it seemed more of the same would be in order for Cerretani’s sophomore campaign.
But, as senior co-captain Dan Marks said, “we have great goalies across the roster. But Luca stepped it up and won the job.”
Cerretani’s first start for the Red was on the sqaud’s European tour last spring, against the second team of the world-renowned soccer club Ajax. The Dutch squad featured players such as Nicolae Mitea — known for his decisive goal in last year’s Dutch league finals.
This intimidating atmosphere, as well as his blue-collar work ethic, has left him mentally tough. With the help of his defense, Cerretani has posted a phenomenal 0.74 goals against average for the season.
[img_assist|nid=18758|title=Stellar defense|desc=Sophomore defender Dan McKallagat attempts to head the ball during the men’s soccer team’s 1-0 loss to Penn last Saturday.|link=popup|align=left|width=100|height=88]
The Red’s defense is a four-man back-line characterized by its experience. Senior Dan Marks, junior Kyle Lynch and sophomore Joe Yonga have played together since the beginning of last season. Freshman Matt Devitt rounds out this cohesive unit that has only allowed three goals in the last five games. This impressive statistic has definitely garnered some Big Red Respect around the Ivy League.
“Marks steps it up every game with his leadership,” Cerretani said. “He works harder than everyone else, so you just have to go out there and match his intensity.”
Although Cornell has started slow this season, posting a 1-4-3 record (0-1-1 Ivy), Cerretani and the defense have been stout. Against league front-runners Penn on Friday, a single defensive error was the only difference between the teams, as Cornell yielded only three shots on goal. And against No. 19 Boston University, Cerretani’s nine saves were crucial in ensuring a 1-1 draw against the Terriers.
Head coach Bryan Scales has nothing but good things to say about his walk on, sophomore keeper.
“Luca has made some great saves this year,” Scales said. “His success comes from hard work and confidence in the hard-nosed bunch ahead of him.”
The Red came into this season with only three seniors on the team, so lack of experience has been an issue for the squad.
“We are a young group, and we make mistakes,” Cerretani said. “But we improve every game, every practice.”
Despite its record, Cornell is only three points behind third-place Harvard, and five points behind league-leader Penn. Therefore, the upcoming stretch of games against Harvard and Yale may make or break the season.
“The Harvard game is winnable,” Cerretanisaid. “We look at every game as winnable, taking a ‘one game at a time’ type of mindset.”
Entering a crucial stretch in the schedule, it is clear the Red’s defensive backbone is set. With a little luck and a few goals, Cerretani’s stellar play may start translating into more wins, and vault the Red into contention for an Ivy League title.