By KEITH BOLLT
After a September schedule filled with non-conference games, the Ivy League season is finally here for Cornell men’s soccer (1-7-1, 0-0 Ivy). This weekend, the Red will travel to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Penn Quakers (1-5-1, 0-0 Ivy). Philadelphia’s nighttime skyline will serve as a bold backdrop to the 7 p.m. Friday kickoff at Penn’s Rhodes Field.
The Red is going into this weekend off of a winless pair of games against Hartwick and Buffalo. Though both the Red and the Quakers have won only one of their non-conference games, Cornell head coach Jaro Zawislan said his team reads very little into non-conference records.
“The Ivy League is a brand new season,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what (our) record was … it doesn’t matter what happened until this point.”
Zawislan said the nonconference matches are a “challenging series of games,” adding that the matches the Red has played so far are not the most important part of the season. Rather, his team has been focusing on its own game in September.
“We use the nonconference schedule as preparation,” he said. “We practice styles of Ivy League teams. … We tested ourselves in nonconference games [with] frequency and quality of games.”
So far this season, the Red has played only three of its nine games at home and has taken on two opponents per week. With the start of the Ivy League schedule, Cornell will play exactly half of its eight remaining games at Berman Field. Aside from a midweek Fall Break match with geographic rival Colgate, the Red will have one game per week from here on out. Zawislan believes one game per week means both the players and the coaching staff are more dialed in for each opponent.
“[It] gives us more recovery and regeneration for the next game,” he said, adding that coaches get “more preparation time” as well.
Being prepared for each conference match is important. Zawislan pointed out that the Ivy League season is shorter than collegiate seasons in other parts of the country. As a result, each game counts more towards the standings.
Although the Quakers were winless at the time of the interview (winning later Tuesday night against Saint Joseph’s), Zawislan nevertheless made sure not to discount or underestimate the Red’s weekend opponent.
“[They are] very well coached,” he said. “[They are] still a quality team with quality players … These are the most important games for every team (in the Ivy League).”
The weather forecast calls for cooler weather and every soccer field plays a little differently. However, Zawislan said weather and playing surface should not be a factor. He said he believes that because both teams are going to be subject to the same conditions, these outside variables will affect both teams equally and not have an effect on the game.
Zawislan also said he believes the coaching staff and players are looking forward to their upcoming match for the same reasons, using it as an opportunity to point out that his team is working towards a common goal.
“We’re all on the same page,” Zawislan said. “We are all going to go (there) and be ready and put the proper amount of work [in] … [in order to] execute (our) game plan.”
Days are getting shorter and leaves have started falling. For the Red and the Quakers, September is over.