With three players out because of food poisoning, as well a starting goalkeeper that got injured the day before the game, Cornell men’s soccer nonetheless marched up Route 81 with composure to topple No. 11 Syracuse, 1-0, in overtime. It was the program’s first win over the Orange in 16 years.
Head coach John Smith said that he noticed something calm about the team during the bus ride up and, once unloaded, that the team had “a good warm up.”
“It didn’t seem like there was anything different just because we were playing Syracuse away” he said.
The Red started the game on its “front feet,” as it dedicated itself defensively in order to keep the Orange within striking distance.
And Smith knew that there was the potential that Syracuse might look past the Red and instead focus on the team’s Friday match with a strong squad in Duke.
“There is nothing more intimidating than when an opponent might not want to do as much because they’ve got a view on the next game,” Smith said.
All the Red needed was the right mentality and guys to step up. It got just that.
Goalie Mitch Meyer played relentlessly and notched three saves, bolstering the Red’s confidence and keeping the team in the game.
“You know that’s going to have to happen when you’re playing a team like Syracuse” Smith said, referring to guys who stepped up to pull off this notable upset.
The main focus of the game was on junior Ryan Hill, whose thrilling overtime goal gave Cornell its most important win in recent history. With a minute left before the overtime break, Smith was eagerly watching the game, thinking, at the very least, “we can get a tie out of this.”
He was energized when his thought of running away with a tie was completely counteracted by his players who were actually “looking to bomb on and go forward,” he said.
As the final goal developed, freshman Tyler Bagley one-touched the ball to Hill, who managed to boot the ball through the falling goalkeeper’s legs with his left foot prior to turning away. He jolted his hands up in celebration and ran over to his teammates, where a dogpile ensued.
“It’s not easy when you’re working hard day in and day out and you’ve not been given an opportunity yet,” Smith said in praise of Hill’s work ethic leading up to his storied goal. It was Hill’s first game this season seeing significant minutes.
From the get-go, Smith has been telling his men that “you have no idea when you’re name is going to get called, and when you are called upon, you can go out and make the most of that moment.”
Hill, Meyer and the rest of the Red certainly did this en route to their first win over Syracuse since 2001.
“The culture is here now,” Smith said, “and we will know when we have completely made it because [the accountability] will be transferred from me to [the players].”
Cornell will look to continue to develop this accountability and further bolster confidence as the team takes on St. Francis College at home this Friday, Sept. 22.