In a season with very few high points, the Cornell men’s soccer team still has a chance to get its first Ivy League win of the season, as the Red travels to Columbia on Sunday for its season finale.
Head coach John Smith admits that while the season hasn’t gone the way anyone would have liked, it “has gone how [he] expected.”
“I have been involved long enough to know where you need to be at in order to succeed at this level, and the fact is we are currently not where we need to be, but have showed significant signs of improvement and we will ultimately get there — that much I am sure about,” Smith said.
Regardless of how the season has shaped up, Smith is confident that the Red (1-13-2, 0-6-0 Ivy) will come out and finish the season strong.
“Coming into the final game, I know this group will work hard and do their very best to produce a positive result,” he said. “We played our best game of the season against Dartmouth and I expect a similar performance against Columbia.”
The game was originally scheduled for Saturday, but after the announcement came that Harvard suspended its soccer team, the game was rescheduled so that all teams could complete the full seven-game Ivy season. Penn and Columbia added a match on Wednesday, a game that Columbia went on to win 3-0.
Columbia (12-3-1, 4-1-1 Ivy) enters the game with a chance to win the Ivy League championship, tied with Dartmouth for first place. Nonetheless, the Red is not necessarily looking to play spoiler.
“The standings won’t impact how we play or focus on this game,” said junior goalkeeper Mitchell Meyer. “It really just means that Columbia will be that much tougher of a team to play against because they’ve got a lot at stake. We’ll have to bring the intensity right from the start.”
Smith highlighted that, just like last week’s game against Dartmouth, “the pressure will entirely be on them.”
“As was the case against Dartmouth, Columbia will have everything to lose in this game,” he said. “I am not worried about standing in the way of another team’s chances — my concern is for my team and us going out there to perform to our potential. If we do that we will definitely make the game interesting.”
Meyer pointed out that Columbia’s possession and defense will make the team a tough matchup, noting the importance for the Red of coming out strong to start.
“We know Columbia is a team that likes to possess the ball and don’t let many goals in,” Meyer said. “It will be imperative to get the first goal of the game and stay strong in the back to try to preserve a shutout. It should be a tight, hard-fought game and we hope we can come out on top.”
Heading into the final match of the game, Smith reflected on an emotional season.
“Despite the results during this season, I have enjoyed the great challenges the last four months has posed for all of us,” he said. “As a coach, I have been tested in so many new ways and I have been forced to look at things from entirely new perspectives. Similarly, I am positive the experiences the players have had will have made them all tougher mentally and physically.”
Smith continued to say that the work that the team put in this season will help the team moving forward.
“We are a strong, close-knit group as we wrap up our season, and [they] are a group of guys who are already eager to hit the training ground in preparation for next season. You can’t ask for much more than that.”