September 1, 2009

Men’s Soccer Starts Off 2009 With ‘Clean Slate’

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After a frustrating and disappointing 2008 season in which the men’s soccer team posted a 1-15 (0-7 Ivy) record, there will be a lot of differences in the 2009 edition of the squad. Most noticeably, the Red will have a new head coach. After seven seasons as an assistant coach for Syracuse, Jaro Zawislan will be taking over at the helm.
“Having Coach Zawislan is a huge boost for our program,” said junior forward Jeff Zimering. “He’s a highly accomplished former player who’s played professionally in Europe. He brings a wealth of experience to us that should reap benefits for the program. We’re extremely excited to play under his leadership.”
Zawislan played NCAA soccer at Clemson and played professionally in Poland and the U.S. for a number of years. From there, he worked as an assistant coach at both Creighton and Stanford before accepting the job at Syracuse. As a three-time All-ACC goalkeeper for the Clemson Tigers, Zawislan brings a unique defensive focus to the Red.
“The philosophy that I developed wasn’t just based on me as a goalkeeper, but was developed over the years of being coached by coaches of different styles and backgrounds,” Zawislan said.[img_assist|nid=37716|title=Can someone say “rebuilding year?”|desc=The men’s soccer team, including senior forward Matt Bouraee (left), is optimistic about its new coach and upcoming season.|link=node|align=left|width=336|height=240]
Zawislan was named as the Red’s new head coach on April 13, 2009, and has been working to change the culture of the team ever since. He replaces former head coach Bryan Scales. In his 11 seasons with the Red, Scales lead his teams to a combined 61-100-16 record. Cornell has not made an appearance in the NCAA tournament since 1996.
“First of all, it starts with the mental approach to the season,” Zawislan said. “I told the team right off the bat that this is a new, fresh season and a new 2009 team. I don’t look back into the past and I don’t want them to look back into the past. I want them to think of themselves as a brand new team with a 0 wins, 0 losses and 0 ties record. This is also my first head coaching position, and I am starting fresh as a head coach with a 0-0-0 record.”
Zimering explained that Zawislan’s efforts are already making a salient impact.
“Guys have come in really excited,” Zimering said. “There’s this buzz in the air. Everyone is energized and there really seems to be a commitment from everyone on the team to work together and do their share to make the team successful this year. We definitely have that mental edge that hasn’t been there in the past.”
Cornell has a total of 17 players returning from last year’s squad, with 10 freshmen joining the team. Last year’s squad struggled on both sides of the ball, as the Red scored just eight times and allowed 43 goals in 16 games.
Zawislan and his coaching staff have yet to name any captains, but they expect to do so in the near future.
“There are some signs of a group of a few players that are bringing different leadership skills to the table,” Zawislan said. “There are no specific players yet, but I think that will happen pretty soon. We are seeing different dynamics happening, but right now it is a little too early to make any final decisions.”
In practice, Zawislan has been emphasizing the importance of a diligent work ethic and has been trying to keep the players focused exclusively on soccer.
“Coach Zawislan stresses the importance of playing soccer all the time,” Zimering said. “He’s tried to create this soccer culture where everyone is always thinking soccer. Whether it’s on the field or off the field, soccer is all that you should be thinking about.”
“Nobody is assured a spot,” Zawislan said. “The players in our program realize that their daily performances in training and in games will define their roles on the team. We think that will lead to an environment in which players will never get complacent.”
With the Red’s first game of the 2009 season coming up Saturday on the road against Syracuse — Zawislan’s former team — the coaches and players are working hard to prepare themselves for the kick-off.
“We are not looking at the schedule saying this game is more winnable than any other game,” Zawislan said. “We are going to prepare ourselves as best as we can for each individual game. Right now our focus is on our opener against Syracuse on Saturday. … There is that cliché: ‘one game at a time,’ but it’s really more important now than ever before. The main is goal is to compete in every game, and when each game ends we can walk off the field with our heads held high up, knowing that we did everything we could to represent Cornell University and the Cornell men’s soccer program.”