October 16, 2008

Woes Continue as Men’s Soccer Falls to Penn St.

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With the men’s soccer team down 3-0 to visiting Penn St. in the final minutes of last night’s contest, someone in the bleachers yelled, “Make it happen!”
Sophomore midfielder Scott Caldwell followed instructions, booting a shot from the left side that made it past the Penn St. goalie just before the final buzzer. But it was too little, too late. The Red (1-9, 0-2 Ivy) had just given up two goals to the Nittany Lions (4-7-2, 1-2 Big Ten) in the last 10 minutes of the game, and a comeback was not in store for the home team.
The Red defense started strong last night — the first clear defensive miscue wasn’t until almost 15 minutes into the game when a Cornell pass back to the goalie was intercepted and taken in for a shot that went wide. Giving up quick goals, however, continued to be the Red’s fatal weakness.
“When we give up a goal on a defensive re-start where the ball’s whiffed into our box, we’ve given up a number of those goals [in the past],” said head coach Bryan Scales. “Teams have scouted us and we knew we had to be much better in that respect today, and we dealt with most of it but unfortunately we didn’t deal with all of it.”
Senior Steve Lesser got the start in goal, replacing regular Red goaltender Scott Brody, a sophomore who had presided over a series of tough losses. Lesser finished with six saves in 90 minutes to Nittany Lion netminder Liam Fitzwater’s two.[img_assist|nid=32701|title=Just you and the ball|desc=Senior defender Kevin Vieira (25) and the rest of the Red defense gave up three goals to Penn St. last night.|link=node|align=left|width=336|height=240]
“Both Steven and [senior Luca Cerretani] have been doing well in training the last few weeks, and they’ve been pushing to get into the starting lineup,” Scales said. “We felt that Scott was a bit shell-shocked at this stage, we’ve given up a lot of goals.”
Cornell’s defense had held off several Penn St. attacks in the first half last night, but the Nittany Lions were able to capitalize on a non-call to get on the board nineteen minutes into the match.
Sophomore defender Matt Devitt went up for the ball around the center circle and an opposing player collided with him in the air — pushing the ball into the path of Penn St.’s sophomore forward Treavor Gelsinger, whose shot from 12 yards out gave the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead that held into halftime.
“[Devitt] got shoved in the back of the head,” Caldwell said. “He was going up and the kid pushed him forward and the ball flew off his head 40 feet towards our goal, which he wouldn’t do if he didn’t get fouled. But bad calls are part of the game.”
Devitt continued to call for a foul after the play, but the goal stood.
With the pressure on the Red to score, the home team later moved senior attacking-minded defender Joe Yonga further up to push the offense, leaving Cornell with a hole in its back line. The Red soon fell victim to the Nittany Lion offense twice in quick succession.
“That’s one of the byproducts of that, it’s a little risky,” Scales said. “But whether we lose 1-0 or 3-0, it doesn’t matter. We want to try to force the issue and [score goals].”
In the 85th minute, Lesser came out of the goal to grab the ball from the mob, and Gelsinger punched it by with a close-range header. Less than two minutes later, with just over four minutes left in the game, Penn St. nabbed its seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead.
That third and final goal for Penn St. was the most confusing in their series of chaotic goals. The goal was attributed to Nittany Lion freshman MacKenzie Arment, who took the original shot on goal, but not even Scales was sure exactly what happened.
“It was tough to see, I’d have to see it on tape to be honest,” he said. “It looked like Mattie Stengel had [the ball] on the goal line and was trying to clear it and I don’t know if he cleared it off somebody and it went back into our goal. I’m not sure.”
Cornell made some adjustments in the second half to put more pressure on the Penn St. defense, including adding another player up top to help out junior forward Matt Bouraee.
“Matt Bouraee was having some trouble with just him, just one forward against four guys,” Caldwell said, “and I think that helped a lot and gave us more offense in the second half.”
Soon after the intermission, freshman forward Pedro Pereira took a quick pass down the middle from junior J.J. Bain and quickly slotted the ball to Bouraee, who was cutting in from the right, but his shot went over the crossbar.
About ten minutes later, the Red offense got another strong scoring opportunity that came just short of success. Penn St.’s Matt Smallwood was given a yellow card for unnecessary roughness in stopping a run by Bouraee. With about 20 minutes remaining in the game, Fitzwater dove to stop Bouraee’s free kick, and a rebound attempt went wide.
“It’s just disappointing to lose another game,” Caldwell said. “We’re working hard and we’re making progress, but we just want to get results.”