The Cornell men’s soccer team (0-6-2) lost a hard fought match against No. 2 Syracuse (8-0-0), despite a strong start with the game’s first goal.
For Syracuse, the game constituted their eighth consecutive victory, a record that is currently unmatched in the NCAA this year. The Orange dominated play, with 29 total chances on goal compared to Cornell’s four.
Last week, head coach John Smith foresaw the tremendous challenge the match would pose, citing his personal experience from the NCAA Final Four while coaching at Stanford.
“To be quite honest with you, it was the one team [at the time] that I think we were pretty much relieved to not face,” said Smith.
Despite the imbalance going into the game, Cornell was still able to manage the Orange during the first half. Syracuse was repeatedly denied opportunities to score until the 43rd minute of the game, but not before the first goal of the match came from Cornell, scored by the increasingly more reliable freshman George Pedlow.
Yet, during the second half, Syracuse took almost twice as many shots as in the first, helping to create a two goal lead while the Red worked to limit the damage. Despite a frustrating balance of play and a disappointing outcome, Smith admires the hard work and commitment his team has shown.
“We held it together and we always will,” Smith said.
With so many chances on goal from Syracuse, any casual observer would likely have expected a higher scoring game. But only three of the Orange’s 16 shots on target were able to pass Cornell’s freshman goalkeeper Ryan Shellow.
“Ryan I thought did a phenomenal job,” his head coach said. “He’s not playing like a freshman. Certainly not a freshman who’s having to face week-in, week-out playing good opposition.”
These kinds of dominant individual performances are exciting to Smith, who continues to try and pull the positive aspects from every game regardless of the final score.
Smith also highlights how impressive Shellow’s performance is given how many full matches he has recently had to play. This last game marks the sixth team in 12 days the team has had to face. Competing almost every other day has been a test of the players’ limits.
“It’s not really humanly possible,” said Smith last week, anticipating just how grueling the series of games would prove to be.
More than anything else, it was sheer physical and psychological exhaustion the Red had to overcome on Tuesday night.
“I don’t like to keep harping on about the fact that we’ve played four games in eight days, but there’s a certain amount of legitimacy to that,” said Smith. “It’s absolute madness, I’m not joking.”
In the past week, Cornell has played four games — Binghamton on Sept. 14, Saint Francis on the 16th, New Hampshire on the 18th and Syracuse on the 20th.
“The fact of the matter is, if we had played Syracuse the night we played Binghamton, we’d have had way more than four shots and Syracuse would have had way less than 29,” said Smith. “It would have been a far different game.”
Looking to next week, the Red will play at Virginia, another nationally top ranked team. Unlike the match against Syracuse, the team will have a full week to prepare for their opponent and recover from the past two weeks, but are expecting a similar challenge from the Cavaliers. More significantly, Smith is excited to look beyond the challenging preseason schedule and begin Ivy League competition.
“The good thing is, what these games are doing is they’re really stretching our guys emotionally and physically, which is wonderful,” said Smith, “There won’t be games in the Ivy League where we’ll be tested any more than we’ve already been tested, in any way, shape or form.”