September 5, 2008

Red to Face Pac-10 Foes

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With the lines and delays that accompany airline travel these days, a 6 a.m. cross-country flight from New York to California would stress anyone out. Nevertheless, that’s just what the men’s soccer team did yesterday morning — going west for the first time since 2004 to open the Red’s season with the Cal Legacy Classic.
Cornell will take on host No. 11 Cal tonight in Berkeley, Calif., and then catch a red-eye flight home Sunday night after an afternoon match with Stanford in Palo Alto. The Go­lden Bears and the Cardinal finished Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the Pac-10 last year.
“[Being on the west coast] brings a lot of excitement,” said junior forward Matt Bouraee. “At the same time, the weather’s different. It’s much hotter [on the west coast]. And these are quality teams. I don’t want to say we’re scared, but we don’t know what to expect. We’ve prepared the best we could, but [we’ve prepared] blindly.”
[img_assist|nid=31443|title=Battle of the Keepers|desc=Senior Luca Cerretani and sophomore Scott Brody (pictured) will compete for the start in goal this weekend.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Cornell does, however, expect the Golden Bears to be riding high. While the Red has only been training for two weeks, Cal is coming off a high-profile, 1-0, win over No. 3 Maryland last weekend, right after a 3-1 season-opening win over UC Riverside.
“California just beat Maryland last week,” Bouraee said, “so we have kind of two-sided thoughts about this game. [We could lose, but] if we beat them after they beat Maryland, that would basically be the best possible start for a team ever.”
“The first game is always the biggest game,” said head coach Bryan Scales. “Last year, we had a good result against Kentucky and we had to kind of forget about it on Saturday to prepare for the next game. And we’ll have to do the same this weekend. We’ll have to have a short-term memory.”
The Red hopes to start the season as strongly as it did last year. In the squad’s opening tournament of 2007 — the University of Kentucky’s Nike Classic in Lexington, Ky. — Cornell won the invitational with wins over Kentucky and IUPUI. Four Red players also made the all-tournament team. Bouraee was one of the four.
“Kentucky was a great team, and we beat them,” he said. “But they went on to not have such a great season, so we didn’t get credited with beating a quality team. We have the potential to have an even better start [this year], since California already proved themselves last week. So if [we win], that probably makes us one of the top-20 teams [in the country].”
Rounding out the highly competitive tournament team roster is another top-ranked team, No. 7 Southern Methodist University, upping the caliber of this northern California tournament even further.
A west coast trip is rare for the Red, according to Scales, who noted that the Red’s trip in 2004 to Oregon was the first one to the fairer coast since 1991.
That was the first time the team made the trek to California and the only other time that the Red has faced either the Cardinal or the Golden Bears. After falling to Stanford, 2-0, on Oct. 12, 1991, Cornell came back two days later to defeat Cal by the same score.
“These weekends with two games, Friday [and] Sunday, are always difficult physically,” Scales said. “That’s why it’s very important that we bring out the 20 guys who can play, who we think can really help us, because everyone is going to have to play at some point to give the guys a break.”
One of the Red’s personnel decisions has been harder to make than others: choosing a starting goalie. The two candidates, senior Luca Cerretani and sophomore Scott Brody, both made the trip to California.
Cerretani is the incumbent starter from last season. He posted a .698 save percentage in goal while playing for most of the 2007 season. Brody, however, came on strong with two wins near the end of last season. Although veteran Cerretani is the probable starter for this weekend’s games, the decision had not been made clear as of yesterday.
“Each one gives us something a little different,” Scales said. “It’s a question of which guy we feel is hot and in form.”
At least jet lag shouldn’t be a factor this weekend, according to Brody, because the team came out early enough to “have basically a full day off” on the west coast before playing.
“I’ve always subscribed to the theory of getting out there early and just getting on the time change, just acclimating yourself as soon as you can,” Scales said. “The guys will be a little tired when we get back here on Monday, but that’s ok.”