September 28, 2007

Red Renews In-State Rivalry

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The men’s soccer team is going where no team has gone before. The Red (5-2) will face off against in-state rival Binghamton (6-2) on the road tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the host team’s newly built field at the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, N.Y. — it will be the field’s inaugural game.
Though the level of difficulty depends on the conditions, senior midfielder Brian Kuritzky said that it is tougher to be the away team for a home opener than to be the home team.
“People could say there’s pressure for a team to win at home, but … we’re going to be opening [Binghamton’s] new stadium, and they’re going to be taunting us,” he said. “The stadium is going to be packed. I’ve spoken to a friend [at Binghamton], and they’re really publicizing the game. They have posters up and stuff. It’s a cliché but it’s going to take a lot of mental strength and discipline to get the job done.”
The matchup will feature stressful on-field conditions, as well as off. The Bearcat den is made of field turf, not the natural grass of Berman Field. The players were able to make adjustments by practicing on the baseball field a little, according to Kuritzky. Without a midweek game, the team had time to catch up on homework, get some rest, treat injuries and train specifically with Binghamton in mind.
“We only had one game which was our focus all week,” Kuritzky said. “All our attention is on Binghamton.”
Though Cornell leads the series record, 8-1-0, the two New York schools haven’t played a regular season match since Nov. 17, 2001. The Red took that game, 3-1, and did not see the Bearcats in action again until a preseason scrimmage last August.
Junior forward David Browngot one in the back of the net in the 77th minute to give Cornell a victory, 1-0. Head coach Bryan Scales, however, doesn’t see that meeting as an indicator of this year since it was the Red’s first day of preseason and basically a warm-up game.
This season, it hasn’t taken long for Cornell to iron out the offseason kinks. The team began with a three-game winning streak and is coming off a two-win week at home in which the Red toppled regional powers Colgate and Vermont on Wednesday and Sunday, respectively.
“Vermont showed us what the America East is all about, and we’ll have to very sharp Saturday night,” Scales said.
Binghamton traditionally sits at the top of the conference, which also includes New Hampshire and Boston University, as it was the America East champion in 2003 and 2006 and the runner-up in 2004 and 2005.
Junior Bearcat back Ryan Tomko, who Scales singled out as an attacking threat, is one of eight players who have scored for Binghamton. The scoring is spread among eight players, each with only one tally apiece. This depth has translated to both ends of the field, as the team started the 2007 season with five straight shutout victories, all 1-0.
“I think they’re a very good attacking team,” Scales said, “[they had] four or five 1-0 victories this season. So defensively they’ve got it figured out as well.
Sophomore Jason Stenta has recorded 22 saves as the full-time goalkeeper, with a .815 save percentage on the season. Though Binghamton hit a rough patch two weeks ago at the Nike Challenge Cup in Richmond, Va., losing two games — including a heartbreaker in overtime to host Richmond, 0-1 — the Bearcats got back on track on Saturday with a win at Hartwick, 2-1. Freshman forward Scott Zobre scored the game-winner and was named the America East Rookie of the Week.
“We’re all really excited for this game,” Kuritzky said. “For one thing, Binghamton is in the region. These games are big, and we need to win if we want to make ourselves as attractive as possible for the NCAA tournament. And second, we have Harvard right around the corner, and we want to be confident [heading into that game] … We lost against Richmond and lost against Buffalo, and we’re still kind of pissed off about that. We’re better than a 5-2 team, so this is our chance to prove ourselves.”