September 9, 2009

M. Soccer Falls to Syracuse, Wins Against Hartwick

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Men’s soccer head coach Jaro Zawislan’s return to his old stomping ground of Syracuse may not have unfolded exactly as planned, but there was a silver lining to the long weekend, as the Red (1-1) picked up its first win of the season against Hartwick (1-1-1), and the first of Zawislan’s tenure as coach. A late-game penalty kick gave Syracuse (1-2) the advantage in Saturday night’s matchup, but Cornell would rebound in commanding fashion on Monday night –– shutting out Hartwick by a score of 1-0. In doing so, the Red equaled its win total from last season and snapped an 11-game losing streak dating back to Sept. 21, 2008.
The new-look Red was evident from the beginning of the Syracuse game, as the team started four new players and applied constant pressure to its opponent throughout. [img_assist|nid=37903|title=A new era|desc=In only two games, the Red has matched its win total from last season.|link=node|align=left|width=335|height=247]
“Our game plan basically was to put high pressure on the ball all over the field, really make it hard for the other team to play,” said junior midfielder Scott Caldwell. “We came out flying from the first kick.”
Indeed, Cornell managed to draw first blood against Syracuse on a goal by junior forward/midfielder Brett Sumpio. The Red ensured that its first and only corner kick of the first half would not go to waste, as Caldwell’s ball to the back post connected with the head of freshman defender Ben Kenyon, who nodded it toward Sumpio –– providing a 1-0 advantage in favor of Cornell.
The Orange would respond nine minutes later, however, as a header from senior forward/midfielder Hansen Woodruff sailed over the head of junior goalkeeper Scott Brody.
A battle of defensive wills ensued in the second half, with neither team gaining an edge for 16 minutes. A penalty kick would prove all the difference in the eventual 2-1 outcome, when senior defender Matt Devitt was called for a foul in the penalty area, earning a booking on the play and enabling Woodruff to net the go-ahead goal.
“The game of soccer … is a game of momentum, and there were shifts in momentum in this game,” Zawislan said. “We had the momentum right from the beginning of the game, and through a large part of the first half. … The second half was back-and-forth.”
Although the Orange out-shot the Red, 11-7, all seven of Cornell’s shots found the goal frame, as opposed to just five for Syracuse.
“We had opportunities,” Zawislan said. “[But in the future] we need to make sure that we finish those opportunities. … Syracuse definitely created enough opportunities to score goals in this game, and they did. … I also thought that we created enough opportunities to score more than one goal, and I felt that we did enough as a team during the game to get at least a tie.”
“What we did really well was defensively [not] allow[ing] Syracuse much time on the ball, and they really couldn’t possess it very well,” Caldwell said. “We kept making them cough up the ball.”
Zawislan also acknowledged that Syracuse is by no means an easy team to play on the road.
“We lost to a very good team in a tough environment … it was their home-opening game. They had 1400-plus fans, which I think was the second-largest crowd in the history of the SU Soccer Stadium, and it was a vocal crowd, too. They had the student section going on, so it was a great test for our players,” he said. “Syracuse is a very experienced team. … It was a great game that was definitely very entertaining for spectators. … There was a lot of end-to-end action, a lot of goal-scoring opportunities.”
As far as improvement down the road goes, Caldwell emphasized the need for the Red to keep the ball more settled down in terms of possession.
“We want to put the ball down the other team’s throats, which is good sometimes during the games, but other times we need to put the brakes on, settle it down a little bit, pass it around –– which I think will just come with playing more games.”
With only one day’s recovery time, the team headed to Oneonta, N.Y., home of the Soccer Hall of Fame, to take on local rival Hartwick in a Labor Day matchup. The change in scenery was not any less forgiving, as the Red had to contend with another rowdy student section that consistently relocated to position itself behind Cornell’s goal.
“[The players] actually enjoy this kind of a challenge, and they almost play better. … We had a tough loss against Syracuse on Saturday, but we turned it around with only one day of rest,” Zawislan said.
The first half of Cornell’s game against Hartwick continued just where the Syracuse game left off, with neither team’s offense able to swing the momentum in its favor.
The second half was much the same –– that is until the 83rd minute mark, when sophomore Kyle Parsons broke the stalemate on an assist by Caldwell. The Red would run out the clock without allowing the Hawks one shot in the remaining eight minutes.
Brody made eight saves for his first shutout of the season and second of his career. Coincidentally, Brody’s first career shutout also came against Hartwick, during his freshman season on Nov. 7, 2007.
“[Against] Hartwick … we defended off their set pieces much better than Syracuse, which is how they scored their first goal against us. Our two centerbacks, Ben Kenyon and Matt Devitt, played outstanding. They cleaned up everything in the back for us, and also [Scott] Brody had a great game in goal,” Caldwell said. “In the first game, you’re all nervous; you don’t really know how it’s going to go, but by the second game everyone’s communicating, everyone was more comfortable playing with each other.
“Our defense just had an outstanding game. … Matt Devitt, Ben [Kenyon], Shane [Merriman] came in [because] Dimitar [Nentchev] got his nose broken in the first 10 minutes. Shane … stepped in big; he played great. … Matt Bouraee, up top, he really helped us out … he just kept pressuring the ball, ran the whole game, played great. … All over the field the team just had a great game.”
According to Zawislan, the key test for his players will be to see how they handle Monday’s positive result while simultaneously refocusing their attention in time for the Red’s next road game against Canisius College on Friday.
“I’m very proud of our players,” he said. “They represented themselves and Cornell in exemplary fashion. … I am really proud of them and I am really happy for them.”
“Since last season, all returning players just really wanted to prove that this program can turn around, that it has good players in it, and that we’re really a committed team,” Caldwell added. “Last season … was what it was. … It wasn’t very fun for anyone, but having that win come the second game of the season just felt great. It has given us so much more momentum –– we hope we can just keep rolling with it.”