Friends, families and fans filled the stands at Berman Field and hung their heads low as Cornell and Columbia players dropped to their knees after the final whistle in Saturday’s game. Both teams had everything to play for and everything to lose, as a share of the Ivy League Championship title was on the line. After playing 110 nonstop minutes, the final score, 1-1, put to rest any hopes of either team claiming a part of the title, with Columbia (8-7-2, 4-2-1 Ivy) and Cornell (8-2-6, 3-1-3) taking third and fourth place in the league, respectively.
“It was a great game to be a part of, and I think everything we had left in ourselves we put out there in that game,” said freshman goaltender Zach Zagorski, who earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his weekend performance. “At the end of the game everyone was down on the field. Nobody could move, and I think that is a testament to the hard work that everybody has put in for the year.”
While the end result was not what the team had hoped for, head coach Jaro Zawislan said that he feels no regret over the final score.
“There should be no regret in this locker room because to me everybody left everything on the field, and if anyone is questioning their individual effort, that is for them to decide,” he explained. “What I saw was everybody on the field and sidelines leaving everything on the field. We were just one goal short of the result we wanted. There will be pain for not scoring that game-winning goal or that share of the title, but on the other hand when you look at the effort and what the team has done on the field during this game, there should be no regrets.”
The Red approached the last game of the season with a hunger to win, trying to create scoring opportunities early in the match.
“I couldn’t ask for more focus or execution from our players at the beginning of the game,” Zawislan said.
Both teams started off strong; however, the Red quickly found itself behind after Lions sophomore midfielder David Najem scored in the 17th minute on a breakaway. Najem chipped the ball in over Zagorski, creating a 1-0 advantage for Columbia. A Cornell defender slipped to the ground, leaving an open space for Najem to make his move. Unwilling to let the game slip away, Red forward Daniel Haber came back with an equalizing goal on the 41st minute, giving the sophomore striker his team-leading ninth goal of the season. Haber completed the play which began in the defensive end with sophomore defender Patrick Slogic launching the ball down the right sideline. Junior forward Tyler Regan received the ball from Slogic and sent it across the penalty box to Haber, who was able to put it away for the point.
“We came from behind and put a lot of pressure and came out like we deserved to win,” Haber said. “It showed us that it doesn’t matter who we play or what the game is like, we can always put a good performance in and going forward I think we will have a lot of momentum in the future.”
The next 50 minutes of regulation play were scoreless for both teams, sparking outcry from the stands when rowdy fans argued a couple of the calls made by the referees. As the temperature dropped to the low 40s, players continued to fight until the time on the clock expired. Ending the first 90 minutes tied, overtime was inevitable to determine whether Cornell or Columbia would walk away with the win.
“We fought till the end,” said senior midfielder Jimmy Lannon, who remained on the field for the entire 110 minutes of regulation and overtime play. “We left nothing on the field and we had no regrets at the end of the game, which I think is the most important thing. While the result was pretty disappointing, considering what we fought for this year, no one doubts all our hard work to get there, so there are no regrets. We fought all year and we fought until the end.”
After 20 more scoreless minutes, the scoreboard remained 1-1, stifling any chance that either team had of sharing the conference title with Dartmouth and Brown.
“I think we had some very good chances,” Haber said in regard to the momentum during the two overtime halves. “[Zagorski] made a ridiculous save in overtime, but we had some chances that could have varied that could have tilted it our way.”
After 10 weeks marked by a 13-game undefeated streak, a winning out of conference record and not being shut out by an opposing team, the Red put a close to the 2011 season. In an announcement made yesterday during the NCAA selection show, it also became official that Cornell would not earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. With this outcome, seniors Kyle Parsons, Will Ogden, Scott Caldwell, Chase Aaronson and Lannon ended their collegiate careers.
“This group of seniors I couldn’t be more proud of [and] all that we’ve had to go through the ups and downs and peaks and valleys in the last two plus years,” Zawislan said. “They have always focused on improving themselves and this team in any way they could on and off the field.”
The program has also shifted greatly over the past three years since Zawislan came to Cornell in spring 2009.
“Since coach [Zawislan] has been here, the program has turned around so much and the expectations have turned around so much,” Parsons said. “Coming off of last year, I think that some people outside of the program, their expectations were a little bit lower, but we knew inside ourselves and inside the program that we had more in us.”
Since the seniors’ rookie season, the program has improved from a 1-15 record — where the team lost every in-conference game — to a 8-2-6 record, where the Red finished fourth in the league.
“The mentality of the team this year had such a dramatic shift and we realized that we can play on the national scene,” Parsons said. “That is going to be very valuable for the program moving forward with the new guys and all the guys returning because they know where the bar is now and I think that that has to be considered the biggest positive in this whole thing in where the program goes now. I think the future for this program is bright.”
Perhaps there is another force besides Zawislan that can be accredited for some of the positive change in the team.
“The entire environment and atmosphere of the program has changed,” Lannon said. “There is a winning attitude and there is a commitment to being better every day. That is the one thing we can be most proud of. [The seniors] really changed this program for the better and these younger guys are going to run with it.”
This winning attitude and dedication to their sport became clear over the season, as the seniors’ passion for soccer shined through. While Parsons and Lannon leave behind a legacy defined by commitment and dedication, the underclassmen are already ready to keep the momentum moving and continue into the future.
“I would never have guessed at the beginning of the year we would have [achieved so much],” Haber said. “I’m shocked and amazed at how well we did this year and I am very excited moving forward.”
Original Author: Lauren Ritter