November 12, 2007

Men's Soccer Recap

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What a way to go out. Though Columbia (3-12-1, 0-6 Ivy) forced the men’s soccer team (7-8-1, 1-4-1) to overtime at Berman Field on Saturday, the home team rallied around the departing seniors on Senior Night. Senior forward Brian Kuritzky had the gamewinner in the final seconds of the match to give the Red its first Ivy win.
“A lot of emotion went into [the game],” Kuritzky said. “It’s our last game for five of us. We’ve been through a lot. From where this program’s come from to where it is now, it’s just a testament to the guys on the team. It’s just so nice to [win the final home game] for everybody.”
“It’s been a long way for us [the five graduating seniors],” agreed senior Sean Mooney. “I don’t think we got a point on this field our freshman year, so to go out 4-2 on this field is a lot of fun. We knew we were going to win, coming into overtime. It was our game. It was always our game.”
The first half, however, didn’t go as planned for either team. The Red got frustratingly close several times, often with an offsides call as its downfall. Cornell was called offside six times to Columbia’s one.
“The first half, there were chances,” said senior co-captain Aaron Vieira. “I just feel like we didn’t finish them. In the end, we probably shouldn’t have gone to overtime in this game. We could have finished them earlier, but we made some mistakes. The second half was very frantic. We got some goals, and [then] we had lapses and gave up goals. It’s a hard one to pin it on. I think the first half could have had goals too, just teams weren’t finishing. In the second half, we started burying some chances and it got crazy.”
The second half saw a surge in offense as well as physicality from both teams. In the 50th minute, Kuritzky gave the Red the first lead on a beautiful one-on-one play. Kuritzky dribbled in from the right, tripping up the defender in his way, and faked out Columbia goaltender Michael Testa to put it in near the right post. The celebration didn’t last long, however, as Columbia’s Steven Keker tied it up six minutes later.
Sophomore Brian Donovan lofted a cross from the right to classmate Matt Bouraee — ready and waiting by the far post. Bouraee headed the ball hard past Testa to regain the lead for the Red. Less than two minutes later, however, the Lions again tied the game on a goal by Keker.
With neither team able to gain a clear scoring advantage, physical play became more and more apparent as the second half wore on. Overall, the Lions were whistled for 15 fouls, while the Red was called for nine. Minutes after Columbia’s second goal, Kuritzky was blatantly pushed to the ground.
“There’s two kind of frustrated teams,” Vieira said. “For us, it’s Senior Night. They want to win, and the game’s been back-and-forth, so emotions are running high at that point, and the physical play just comes along with it.”
The physical play was more a result of the emotion in the game than from any particular individual or team, according to Vieira.
“We had a crowd that was really vocal, and we had a couple times where the crowd didn’t agree with the ref’s calls and that just gets the emotion, the energy, really boiling over,” he said.
Some of the penalties that energized the crowd the most were, in fact, not recognized by the officials. Minutes after Columbia’s first goal, for example, Kuritzky was taking the ball in towards Columbia’s net despite being sandwiched by two Columbia defenders. When the Cornell forward was taken down, the subsequent non-call drew jeers from the home crowd.
“When you get tight, the game stretches out,” Mooney. “So when guys are out of position, you get a lot more tackles. We got a little chippy. There was a couple questionable penalty non-calls each way. We’d miss a tackle, or we’d be late in a tackle, and they’d reciprocate. It got a bit hard. You know, you remember the number of the guy who kicks you always.”
The grudge match between the Ancient Eight’s two teams without an Ivy win continued into overtime after neither team could tighten the noose in the final 20 minutes of regulation. The Red’s offense stalled, with three successive corner kicks at one point and no completion in sight. The defense, however, kept Cornell in the game. Senior co-captain Kyle Lynch made several key deflections in the final minutes of regulation, and freshman goaltender Scott Brody made a spectacular diving catch with less than four minutes left in overtime.
It came down to the wire. The clock stopped with 6 seconds left, as Columbia’s Demetri Arnaoutakis’s arguing drew a yellow card and a free kick for the Red. When Kuritzky’s 15-yarder curved into the right corner of the net, Berman Field erupted.
“It’s crazy,” Vieira said. “You’re on the field, and at that point you’re absolutely exhausted. You’re just dying for someone to finish. And then Kuritzky steps up and hits a ball like that, and you can’t explain how excited you are. It’s unbelievable. It’s everything you hope for as a senior.”
“It’s an amazing way to finish,” Mooney said. “You could not try anything better. A senior scoring with 6 seconds left — unbelievable. … Kuritzky did awesome. He earned it more than anyone. I’ve never seen anyone do more free kicks in training. That’s what he trains for, 6 seconds left. It’s a dream goal.”