October 20, 2011

M. SOCCER | Red Hosts Bears in Ivy Showdown

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Cornell heads into the final weeks of October with a full slate of sporting events scheduled against Brown, one of its chief Ivy League rivals. Perhaps the top billing of the weekend goes to the men’s soccer team, which will provide the Cornell community a day filled with festivities centered on its Saturday afternoon game against the Bears at 3:30 p.m. on Berman Field.

Setting aside the excitement for the annual “Break the Berman Record” game, the Red looks to continue with business as usual in an important Ancient Eight matchup. The Red (8-1-3, 3-0-0 Ivy League) will enter play unbeaten in its last 11 games since an opening day loss to Niagara, 3-1. Cornell will also be nationally ranked for the first time in 10 years when it steps on the field Saturday. The Red earned the No. 25 spot in the NCSAA’s ranking this week, after starting the season at No. 40. It is the first time since the end of the 2001 season that Cornell is in the poll.

The equally competitive Bears (7-4-1, 2-1-0) are coming off two impressive victories against conference opponents, Princeton and Harvard. As of late, the Bears have played in a number of close games, with three of its last four matches going into single or double overtime. This seems to indicate that Saturday’s game will be nothing less than a thrilling contest that will go down to the wire, according to head coach Jaro Zawislan.

“Our players are looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “Before the season started Brown was an early favorite for the Ivy League championship. They are a seasoned and experienced group. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day. We will go out with a game plan looking to execute it.”

Zawislan further noted his players’ work ethic throughout the season and their commitment to continuously improve.

“Our goal is to get better every day individually and as a team. We can never get complacent. We have not yet arrived at our goal,” he said.

Senior midfielder Jimmy Lannon echoed his coach’s observations on the season overall.

“It’s awesome,” he explained when asked about the team holding the Ivy League’s best record. “But, the season is not over yet. We want to keep moving forward and keep the positive things rolling.”

“The Niagara game was so important for us,” Lannon added, referring to the loss in the season opener. “From losing that game we learned a lot about ourselves … we did a lot of growing up.”

Junior striker Tyler Regan agreed with Lannon about the early season struggles serving as a turning point for the team.

“It helped us a lot to lose that game. We definitely bounced back after the loss,” he said.

When asked about this weekend’s game Regan praised Brown’s ability, but exuded confidence that he and his teammates will earn the win.

“[We want] a win and a shutout,” he said. “Brown is a great team … we are going to go in expecting a battle, but hoping to come out on top especially in front of the home fans.”

Regan noted Cornell’s ability to play stellar defense, as well. In fact, the Red recorded two consecutive shutouts entering play this weekend, holding its opponents scoreless on seven total occasions this season. Junior goalkeeper Rick Pflasterer has only allowed seven goals through the entire season, sporting an .821 saves-percentage with 32 saves. His overall goals-against average is 0.56, which is the best in the Ivy League.

Another stand out player is sophomore striker Daniel Haber, who earned his second Ivy League Player of the Week honors of the season for his efforts against Colgate and Yale last weekend. Haber’s 18 points this season not only lead the Red, but have him tied for first place in the league.

Historically, the Red has struggled against the Bears, posting a 19-35-4 record, including last year’s 2-0 loss; however, this season Cornell has drastically improved on its offense, scoring 21 goals thus far to surpass last year’s total of 13.

This weekend also presents the opportunity for the fans to get more involved. Saturday is the annual “Break the Berman Record” game in which the objective is to break last year’s attendance record of 961. The first 250 fans will receive free t-shirts and proceeds from the game will go to the Go4theGoal Foundation. The Red has teamed up with the foundation’s “Lace-Up 4 Pediatric Cancer” awareness campaign, as the players will be sporting neon shoelaces for the cause. The team is also asking fans to bring new unwrapped toys to the game for the local Salvation Army’s toy drive for Christmas. Every fan that brings a toy will get a chance at a signed MLS jersey.

Lannon is excited to play on such an important day for the community.

“We are looking forward to having a lot of support for the game,” he stated. “It could be the biggest game the team and I have been a part of. Having everyone out there will be phenomenal.”

Original Author: Scott Eckl