October 23, 2007

Men's Soccer Targets Road Victory

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The men’s soccer team has history with Big Ten competitor Penn State — its opponent for tonight’s midweek game. Senior midfielder Sean Mooney recalled being heckled as he took the field in University Park, Pa. three years ago, one of two meetings between the teams in the last three years. Mooney and the Red return to Jeffrey Field tonight to face off against the Nittany Lions at 7 p.m.
“As long as we play physical, we have the skills to beat them,” Mooney said. “We’ve just underperformed the past few weeks, but we’re ready to get on the ball … and take out our aggression on [Penn State].”
Cornell (5-5-1, 0-2-1 Ivy) lost its last two meetings with the Nittany Lions (4-7-3, 1-1-2 Big Ten) in 2004 and 2005 and last won a matchup with the Big Ten team in 2001. Coming off a home loss to No. 8 Brown on Saturday, the Red is looking to regain some momentum heading back into Ivy play this weekend.
“We’re looking forward to get a game as soon as possible after a game like Brown, so that’s probably a good thing having a game so quick,” said senior tri-captain Aaron Vieira. “We had a talk [Sunday], trying to get us back to doing the things we were doing in the beginning of the season … Right now, we’re just in one of those bad spells.”
The bad spell extended over Cornell’s last four games, each of which ended in a tie or a loss for the Red. Penn State, on the other hand, has its own demons to face. The Nittany Lions have lost or tied all of their last five contests. As Brown defeated Cornell on Saturday, Penn State’s game against conference foe Wisconsin went into extra periods but yielded a frustrating result for the host Nittany Lions.
“Penn State plays in a terrific league, just like we do, and they’re coming off a 3-3 tie against Wisconsin on Saturday night,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “I don’t think that they’re completely thrilled with their performance either, and both teams have big games coming up on the weekend …. It’s a challenging midweek game for everybody.”
A unique element of tonight’s matchup is the quick turnaround between games.
“This is the first time that we’ve played a Tuesday game after a Saturday game, [and] it’s hard because usually [Monday] is a recovery day for us. So we have to combine a recovery day for some guys with a pre-game organizational day. You’re just kind of doing the best you can,” Scales said.
The coaches were still tinkering with the lineup through yesterday.
“In fact, we’re still waiting to figure out who is fit to play and who’s not,” Scales said. “We have a number of guys who are really struggling injury-wise. [The injuries are] ongoing, but since Saturday even more so … The nature of seasons are always such that you have one thing in mind at the beginning of the season and then things change and evolve during the middle of the season. The most important thing is that you have the depth to be able to bring guys in, to jump into different positions. I think we have the depth, [though] we’re a little inexperienced.”
The Red, however, does have a core group of juniors and seniors — players who have seen Penn State in action before. Vieira is the only member of the squad to have started in both of the last two Penn State matchups.
“They’re always a strong program,” he said. “My freshman year wasn’t the greatest [for us] … but we had a very tight 2-1 game against them last year.”
In 2004, the current senior class’s freshman year, home team Penn State held a 20-2 shot advantage and shut out the Red, 3-0. On Oct. 19, 2005, however, Cornell kept the match competitive at Berman Field, with a pressure-filled defense limiting main scoring threat Jason Yeisley to two shots on the night.
“We felt the last game that we played against them, here in 2005, we had a pretty good performance,” Scales said. “We lost 2-1, [but] we probably should have got at least a draw out of it.”
Now a junior, Yeisley leads Penn State this year with six goals and four assists. Senior goalkeeper Conrad Taylor has manned the goal every minute this year for the Nittany Lions, having recorded wins against Cornell in both 2004 and 2005.
“I’ll be curious to see what the response of the players is [after the loss to Brown],” Scales said. “I think we let ourselves down Saturday against a very good Brown team. At this stage in the game, they clearly have the best team in our league. They have a lot of balance. That’s a good team. There’s no doubt about it. But for us, we were disappointed in the fact that we had maybe five or six guys [on Saturday] who were really getting after it and competing, and the other guys just looked like they were afraid to make a mistake or just not confident, not aggressive enough, with the ball and without the ball.”