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Cornell men’s soccer recorded its first win of the season over the weekend in an impressive showing over Lafayette College. The Red lost a tightly contested match against Lehigh on Friday, 2-1, before cashing in an impressive all around performance on Sunday.
“I thought we did very well, especially in the first half,” said head coach John Smith.
Cornell scored three times in the first half to break the game open. The team created scoring chances throughout the first 45 minutes and perhaps could have put even more balls into the back of the net, according to the head coach.
Lafayette came out in better form in the second half, netting a brilliant free kick and creating a few scoring chances of their own to make the contest an exciting up and down match. Neither team sat back.
“You always know when you go into halftime at two or three [to zero], the game is not over yet,” Smith said. “I was proud of our group in the second half because we kept composed emotionally and kept looking to play the ball around.”
Cornell’s ability to create goals this season is improved from last year. Through the first four games last year, Cornell managed just four goals. That number sits at six this season.
Sophomore forward George Pedlow got things started for the Red against Lafayette with a goal assisted by freshman midfielder Harry Fuller. The goal was Pedlow’s team-leading second of the season, matching the amount he scored all of last year.
“I could feel the centerback behind me and Harry played a really nice ball across and I just faked left and went in front,” Pedlow said. “It was just a little touch into the front pocket.”
Two freshmen scored the next goals for the Red, as midfielder Caleb McAuslan and defender Austin Evan both found the back of the net before the end of the first half. Even with the newcomers, Pedlow already recognizes the maturity the team is showing on offense this year.
“We’ve definitely upped the technical level with our players,” Pedlow said. “Offensively we’re playing with much more freedom and confidence.”
Cornell has benefited from a freshman class with several different players capable of making a difference on the pitch. Players like McAuslan and midfielder Tyler Bagley have added creativity and fresh offensive skill to the squad.
“They don’t seem to be playing like freshman,” Smith said.
“The freshman have definitely contributed a significant amount,” Pedlow added. “There is still a lot to learn from the system and defensively we’ve had a few lapses in concentration, but they’ve came in and added a lot, especially on offense.”
Over the years, Cornell’s strong suit has been its defensive unit, and against Lafayette, the back line was in sharp form, allowing just three shots on goal.
“We were rock solid at the back today,” Smith said. “We had a film session yesterday in training to go over some of the things I felt as though we needed to improve and I thought we did a real good job of it.”
Nothing came easy for the Lafayette strikers when they were on the ball, most evident by the fact the lone Leopards goal came off a near-perfect free kick. Not even the most stingy defenses can prevent a set piece shot into the corner of the net.
And even though he was not called upon often, sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Shellow added a few key saves to stop Lafayette from closing the gap in the second half.
On one such occasion, a Lafayette player broke free in the box and flicked an uncontested shot in toward the net. Shellow slid to his left and made a glove save to deny the chance.
“One of their guys came into the box and was able to get a clean hit,” Shellow said. “I just tried to hold my ground and react to what he did.”
Following its first win, the young team will look to build some momentum off of its weekend results.
Even though the Red dropped its match against Lehigh, there were several positives to take away from that game, including a goal from the freshman midfielder Fuller, who continues to put in strong showings for the Red. He has a knack for finding the net, sitting behind Pedlow for second on the team in shots on goal.
And as conference play looms, the win against Lafayette should provide the Red with confidence.
“We have a much higher goal for this season and expect better results,” Shellow said. “It’s definitely good that all of the hard work we’ve put in so far can lead to a result.”