November 12, 2008

Senior Class Steadies Team Through Highs and Lows

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The men’s soccer team has just one game remaining in its season, and that means that the seniors on the squad have just one game left in their respective NCAA careers.
This year’s team is quite unique in that there are 11 seniors, one of whom, Miyad Movassaghi, will be returning for a fifth year of eligibility. Junior Matt Bouraee explained that due to the big group of seniors, the character of this year’s team is defined by their leadership and personalities.
“It has been a pretty tough season and it is good to have so many seniors around,” Bouraee said. “They kept our heads up. They pretty much set the tone for the season. Throughout the whole season, we never gave up and every practice was pretty intense and we are always shooting to improve. Without their leadership, it could have been possible to break down considering the record we have.”
Senior co-captain Joe Yonga notes that he and his classmates have become great friends in their four years, something that definitely helps on the field and makes their overall soccer experience more enjoyable.
“We are a close group of guys on the field and off the field,” Yonga said. “A lot of us live together and when we are not practicing or playing games, we are hanging out together.”
For soccer’s seniors, as with a lot of NCAA athletes, their sport has been the most important and time-consuming aspect of their college life.[img_assist|nid=33499|title=Making strides|desc=Senior forward Joe Yonga (20) and the 11 seniors on the soccer team have kept the team on an even keel throughout a trying season.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“Soccer has been the most significant defining factor in the time that I have spent here,” said senior defender Dan McKallagat. “It’s such a significant time commitment playing here and I spend so much time with these guys that being close with the guys on the team is ultimately going to determine the level of enjoyment that you get out of it and the level of success that you feel you have.”
In the past four years, the Red has had varying levels of success. The seniors believe that each year has taught them different things and each year has provided some memorable experiences. McKallagat points to the 2006 Ivy League season, his sophomore year, as perhaps the soccer highlight of his years at Cornell.
“I think we have definitely a number of successes and a number of failures throughout the four years,” McKallagat said. “I think that we are most concerned about how we do in the Ivy League so I think probably my sophomore year when we tied for third in the league and a number of the guys in our class had a big part on that team. I’ll probably look back on that year and that stretch of the season as the most successful for us as a class.”
Yonga and McKallagat both agree that the last four years would not have been the same without the influence and dedication of head coach Bryan Scales and assistant coaches Nenad Zigante and Joe Schneck.
“The coaches have been very supportive of myself and the other guys,” Yonga said. “They are the ones that recruited us. We are not here just playing soccer for them, they have been there for us off the field as well. They are guys that truly care about us. They are guys that you can go and talk to when things aren’t going well and that has made a huge difference.”
While this year has mostly been disappointing for the Red, which has struggled to a 1-14 record and is currently 0-6 in the Ancient Eight, 2008 has provided the squad with some invaluable lessons for the future.
“At this point in the season, we have all kind of realized that when things aren’t going you’re way, it is important to focus on the things that you can control,” Yonga explained. “That is going out every day and working hard and just being there for the guys next to you. That is one thing that I think we have tried to do to the best of our ability this year given the circumstances. Hopefully that is something that the younger guys have picked up on and will carry that forward for the coming years.”
Next year, the Red will be a very new team, as 10 of the seniors will be moving on. Bouraee recognizes that next year’s team will be significantly different and will have to find its own personality without the Class of 2009.
“On the field, most of them have played significant amount of time this year,” Bouraee said. “So on the field, not having them — not having [McKallagat’s] touch or not having a couple goalies always fighting for a spot — it’s definitely something that will be missed. Off the field, those are guys that are really fun to be around. I think that they define the character of the team, considering how many of them there are, so I think that will be missed.”