From denting sheetrock while playing basement soccer to beating nationally ranked teams, Ryan and Connor Bayne have been making an impact — both literally and figuratively — everywhere they go.
Growing up in Horseheads, New York, just about 30 miles away from Ithaca, Ryan and Connor — a Cornell men’s soccer junior and freshman, respectively — spent much of their time together as kids outdoors, competing in a variety of sports from horseback riding to downhill skiing. But with a Cornell Athletics Hall-of-Fame soccer player as a father in John Bayne ’88, a soccer ball was never far out of reach.
“When we travel, the boys are sure to deflate a very small soccer ball and bring a pump such that when we have a layover, they pump it up and play soccer in whatever quiet corner of the airport they can find,” said Gwynne Bayne, the boys’ mother. “This has been happening since they were toddlers.”
Although the pair only formally played together for a brief time on one team prior to coming to Cornell, the chemistry between the two the field is evident. It is common for the two brothers to head out for practice alone to sharpen their skills before the rest of the team arrives.
While any two brothers can be expected to be close, Ryan and Connor credit their deeply-entrenched connection to growing up playing all kinds of sports with each other around the house ever since they could walk.
“We were both raised by my dad as a soccer player, and he taught us similar things because he taught us what he knew,” Connor said. “Even though [Ryan’s] a defender and I’m a midfielder, we still play similarly and have similar work rates.”
“We understand each other more than most players do just because we know what each other’s playing style is like,” he continued. “People say they see the connection all the time. Even when my dad steps on the field, they say they see the connection between all of us.”
Both brothers point to their father, John, who competed for both the soccer and track and field teams at Cornell and was a 1998 inductee into the Cornell Hall of Fame, as their biggest mentor when it comes to their methodology on the pitch.
However, both brothers said that their decision to attend Cornell was unrelated to their father’s legacy.
“For me being the oldest, I was the first one to go through the college recruiting process,” Ryan said. “And [my father] was pretty open with me going anywhere, so I don’t think [his legacy] affected me too much.”
“[My father] let me tour different schools and I didn’t always tour with him,” Connor said. “In the end, [Cornell] was just the one I felt most comfortable with.”
Mr. Bayne echoed his sons’ sentiments, saying that it was ultimately the boys’ decision to join the Red.
“All parents want the same thing for their kids — to be healthy, happy and reach their full potential,” said Mr. Bayne, who makes the nostalgic trip back to East Hill for his sons’ games. “We are thrilled they are attending an Ivy League college and, of course, [it is] even more meaningful since it is Cornell.”
The eldest of four brothers, Ryan and Connor are no strangers to competition. At times, the two would even get their younger siblings into the mix. One afternoon, Connor convinced his younger brother, Kevin, to goaltend for him. Only things did not turn out so well for the younger Bayne.
“Connor took some wicked hard shots,” Mrs. Bayne said. “Shortly after, Kevin’s hand [was] bothering him and, sure enough, he sustained a hairline fracture thanks to Connor’s wicked shots.”
Luckily, maturity — and playing different positions on the field — has helped the duo grow closer together.
“Being in two different positions on the field, we don’t really compete for playing time against each other,” Ryan said. “But in things other than soccer we can be pretty competitive.”
With Connor playing a more offensive-minded position and Ryan taking on a solely defensive role, the pair work well in tandem.
“This summer, my favorite part was that I always had a training partner, instead of finding a wall to go bang a ball against,” Ryan said. “[On] the days when you’ve done a full day’s work and you’re just tired … it makes it easier when you have somebody to continue to push you.”
Despite their innate competitive drive, the brothers are able to work together to help each other navigate the challenges that come with being an athlete at an Ivy League university.
Connor said that Ryan has helped ease his transition to Cornell by imparting useful advice about classes, in addition to assisting him on the field.
“He helped me by telling me to join a study group and telling me good places to study for prelims,” Connor said. “Soccer-wise, he helped train me over the summer and told me what to work on. He was kind of like a coach before I came in here and met [head coach] John Smith.”
Although both brothers are pursuing their degrees in mechanical engineering, their paths to get there were quite different.
According to his father, Ryan was “always learning new things” like juggling, playing guitar, cooking and even starting a ski tuning business out of his basement.
On the other hand, Mr. Bayne described Connor as being “very mechanical” and as “always spending time with his grandfather, learning about snowmobiles and Jeep engines.”
With their unique personalities, Ryan and Connor are each able to bring their own brand of tenacity and athletic prowess to Cornell soccer with the hopes of helping the Red achieve its lofty goals in what has been a resurgent 6-3-2 season so far.
Ryan, a junior captain, has been a key member of the Red’s defense this season, holding offensive powerhouses to low-scoring games. Although Connor has not seen much action at the collegiate level quite yet, he shows much promise as an integral part of a state championship-winning team and multiple time conference MVP in high school.
“I think a lot of people can look you over when we have a younger team like we have,” Ryan said. “But we don’t think there’s any reason we can’t compete for the championship this year. [The underclassmen] have done really well in getting up to speed. It’s a competitive environment everyday in practice. Guys are really starting to see that we can go somewhere.”