August 31, 2007

M. Soccer Kicks Off 2007 on Hostile Turf

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Senior midfielder Brian Kuritzky is one of the most experienced members of the men’s soccer team, having played in all 15 games (14 starts) last year and 11 in his sophomore season. Last summer, he also participated in the Premier Development League, showcasing elite college talent across the country, and his team made it to the 2006 National semifinals in Laredo, Texas.
“The town was basically based around this soccer game,” Kuritzky said. “The stands were packed, and any time you went near the sidelines they would dump stuff on you and call you names.”
The Red is anticipating a similar scene tonight when it faces host Kentucky in the University of Kentucky/Nike Invitational.
“It’ll be a real test for us,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “We’re expecting a pretty hostile environment [tonight] down there, so it’ll be fun for the guys. It’ll be a good experience for them. … Anytime you have to navigate through the Ivy League schedule you’re going to be put in a number of hostile environments, and I don’t think that you can pick one more than another as being more hostile. But the Kentucky fans are really into their team and it’ll be just like an Ivy League game. I’m sure of it.”
In its second game of the tournament, the Red will play Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) Sunday at noon. This weekend will be the first time Cornell will be playing both Kentucky and IUPUI, both of whom competed in the NCAA tournament recently.
Kentucky was ranked No. 13 in the nation last year but did not receive an invitation to the NCAA tournament. Though the Wildcats in particular boast a big name in the sport, according to Kuritzky, the intimidation factor does not affect the Red’s confidence level that much.
“Those are the type of games every player wants to play in, those hostile environments with fans yelling,” Kuritzky said. “We’re old enough to realize that we’re not going to be fazed by that. It’s just going in there with the right attitude.”
Kentucky returns the core of a defense ranked 23rd nationally last year, which should make for an exciting contest when matched up against Cornell’s also traditionally strong backfield.
“We don’t really know too much about either one of those teams,” Scales said. “Other than that they had a number of scrimmages and they’ve been training and playing preseason probably two and a half weeks, which is about a week and a half longer than us. They’ll be in good shape. They’ll be a little further along fitness-wise than we are.”
Though senior tri-captain and star defender Kyle Lynch is still out with an injury, most of the other regular starters are expected to play this weekend.
“It’s disappointing because Kyle’s our leader in the back. But we also know that [junior] Joe Yonga’s also a guy who’s played back there with Kyle and we’re expecting great things out of Joe,” Scales said. “We feel like we have enough guys that we’re going to be able to compensate for Kyle’s loss for a little bit.”
The team was able to win both of its preseason scrimmages last week without Lynch in its arsenal. According to Scales, some shaky play in the scrimmage against McGill on Aug. 22 was just due to the natural readjustment period at the beginning of the season.
“It was our second day [back], and it literally looked like our second day with regards to how the soccer looked, what type of connections we were able to make, how we played as a group collectively,” he said.
Cornell also scrimmaged against Syracuse on Aug. 25, but the game was called after only 40 minutes when a thunder and lightning storm broke out. Kuritzky scored the only goal of the game and the Red seemed to be getting into a groove. Since the team was playing so well, both Scales and his players were disappointed that the scrimmage was cut short.
“So early in the season, that was really nice to see us play that well,” Kuritzky said. “[Even though we only scored one goal] we could easily have scored two or three [goals in that first half].”
In addition, four freshmen will be on the Red’s roster this weekend: Brett Sumpio, Matt Stengel, Jeff Zimering and Scott Caldwell. Sumpio and Zimering each scored a goal in the Red’s scrimmage against McGill.
“The teams that we take on the road with us when we travel are always up for grabs during the week,” Scales said. “It’s using who’s doing better and who’s in good form. I think the whole group has had a good eight [or] nine days of preseason and those four guys address a few needs that we think we’re going to have to have when we get into this tournament.”