November 13, 2007

Winter Teams Have Chance for Special Seasons

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As someone who spends a vast amount of my time writing and reading about Cornell’s athletic teams, I have a vested interest in their success. So it starts to get really depressing when every article I write or edit is about a loss. There are only so many ways you can frame a 39-point blowout or a four-goal loss in a positive manner. Just ask Assistant Sports Editor Cory Bennett, who was berated by a coach who will remain anonymous after writing what this coach perceived to be an egregiously negative article. But the way I see it, the fact of the matter is that a blowout loss is a blowout loss. We — as sports journalists — have no responsibility to make Cornell teams sound better then they actually are, no matter how desperately I want them to win or how much I may have bet on them (I feel your pain Donaghy).
So with that being said, I have had a rough semester here at East Hill. There is just no way around it — our fall teams were not very good. I, probably like many of you, had long dreamt as a kid of attending a truly crazy athletic contest at my future university. I would watch Duke basketball games or LSU football games on TV and think, holy s— that place is rocking, I would love to be there right now. Just imagine rolling out of bed at 10 a.m. every Saturday and pregaming for a few hours before watching your school run house in front of 100,000 screaming fans and ESPN cameras.
I mean just think about that for a second, it’s Homecoming caliber festivities every week plus a big time sporting event. For sports fanatics, it just doesn’t get much better than that. Some friends of mine road tripped it down to LSU over Fall Break to experience the madness first hand; believe me, we’re missing out. The closest thing I have come to having that good of a time while watching a Cornell sport was heckling the hell out of Princeton basketball players last year in a triple overtime thriller (even though it was a loss, I highly recommend partaking in this activity).
And I am not a complete idiot, so it is not like I expected anything along those lines when I came to Cornell. We’re not turning into Texas or USC anytime soon, I can promise you that. But is it too much to ask for just one fall team to be legitimately good? The sad truth is that not one squad finished above second place in the Ivy League standings.
I had high hopes for this year’s football team and its new high-flying offense, especially after quarterback Nathan Ford told me they would win an Ivy title. But for whatever reason, the guys just didn’t get it done and ended up in fifth place. The men’s soccer team finished off another disappointing year under head coach Bryan Scales (seventh place) and the women’s soccer team didn’t win a game in the Ivy League and was shutout for seven straight contests at one point this season. Furthermore, after losing former Sun Athlete of the Year Liz Bishop, the volleyball team sputtered to a sixth place Ivy finish.
The only pleasant surprises of the entire fall season were the field hockey team (who locked up its program best Ivy finish — second) and the men’s cross country team. Behind ‘TO’ himself, senior co-captain Jimmy Wyner, the runners took second at Heps (just think Ivy championships) for the first time since 1993. Why am I bringing all of this negativity up? Because there is help on the way.
Many of Cornell’s winter sports teams have a chance to be special this upcoming season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. First and foremost, the men’s basketball team has been picked (by multiple publications, I might add) to dethrone the killer P’s (Penn and Princeton) and finish first in the Ivy League. Considering that either Penn or Princeton has won the title 46 out of 52 times, including in 37 of the last 39 seasons, as Ron Burgundy would say, it’s “kind of a big deal.”
These guys are legit (on the court and off) and have a great shot to back up that prediction and go to the team’s first NCAA tournament since 1988. The ballers have, quite possibly, the best perimeter attack in the history of the Ivy League, headlined by two former Ivy League Rookie of the Year’s (junior Adam Gore and sophomore Ryan Wittman), All-Ivy honorable mention sophomore Louis Dale and USC transfer Collin Robinson. All four guys can launch it with the best of them from behind the arc and handle the ball well enough to run the point.
The only real question mark for the team is establishing a dominant post presence. But between junior forwards Jason Battle, Brian Kreefer and Conor Mullen and ginormous St. Bonaventure transfer Jeff Foote (who may or may not be related to former NBA great Gheorghe Muresan), the squad should have a serviceable inside game. What does all of this mean? It means that we might hear Cornell’s name come out of Dicky V’s mouth sometime in the very near future. As an editor and a fan, I couldn’t hear it soon enough.
But that’s not all.
The wrestling team (which was picked to finish fourth in the nation in W.I.N. Magazine’s preseason poll) will continue its legacy of dominance this year and just may make a run at its first national championship. I have had nothing but positive experiences with the team ever since I started covering them last season (except of course for getting into a verbal altercation inside Johnny O’s with a certain of the team, but that is neither here nor there and I’m going to go ahead and blame my good friend Mr. Barton for that one) and this year will be no different. Led by three returning All-Americans (the legendary Troy Nickerson, southern gentleman Jordan Leen and up-and-coming Josh Arnone) the team should place in the top-5 in the nation for the third time in four years. Also, shout out to head coach Rob Koll — you are the man.
The hockey team has a chance to return to the Frozen Four this season. In 10 Questions, senior co-captain Ray Sawada predicted that the team would win a national championship, and the big Canadian knows what he is talking about. With Sawada and fan-favorite Topher Scott leading the forwards along with NHL first-round draft pick Riley Nash, the team certainly has enough offensive talent to make his prediction a reality. The question is whether the goalie tandem of junior Troy Davenport and sophomore Ben Scrivens will make enough saves to keep the opposition off the scoreboard. Either way, it should be another fantastic season of heckling and fish throwing at Lynah.
The women’s basketball team returns a core of solid players and could also challenge for Ivy supremacy this season. Two-sport star Jeomi Maduka is a dominant presence in every game and Sun columnist and one-time 10 Questions host, Shannan Scarselletta, should rack up rebounds and points in the paint.
Furthermore, both track teams are always very good and not only should they have a number of athletes in the hunt for Heps titles, but the squads are also a dark horse for a naked gorge jumping mixer. Anytime that is a possibility, I’m going to give the team the benefit of the doubt, (for further information about this event please contact Jimmy Wyner). And believe it or not, women’s hockey is a team to watch this winter. OK this one might be a stretch, but hear me out. Despite a horrendous season last year in which it won four games, the squad has a very talented freshman class and the word on the street is that the women could make some noise in 2008.
So next time you find yourself trudging uphill through the snow and complaining to your friends about how you should have gone to USC, remember that this season just may be the one in which our beloved Big Red wins it all. Here’s to hoping Cornell turns into this year’s George Mason, if only for a month.