Michael Wenye Li/ Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Freshman Tommy Hansan's goal was not enough to push Cornell over Princeton in one of the first games for the Red that ended in 90 minutes.

October 30, 2017

With Final Pair of Games Looming, Men’s Soccer Freshmen Continue Serving Integral Role

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Cornell men’s soccer freshman Tommy Hansan scored his team’s first and only goal of the night in the 18th minute, but despite the quick start, Princeton responded with two goals to walk away with the victory Saturday in New Jersey.

Even though the Red suffered the loss, the team outshot its opponent 9-3 in the first half and 18-11 overall. Hansan accounted for four shots alone, while fellow freshman Kepler Despinos accounted for three.

Twenty of the 29 players listed on the Cornell roster are underclassmen, 14 of which are freshman. Throughout the season, up to seven freshman at a time have started for the Red, with Hansan serving as the team’s leading scorer with five goals.

“When you’re bringing in a new group of guys you want it to be a positive and healthy environment,” head coach John Smith said about his young core of players. “[The upperclassmen] have welcomed them with open arms and … they [know] they’re being supported by everybody here. I’ve never been of the opinion that you’ve got to be old to play this game. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.”

The current freshman class is the first recruiting class of second-year head coach Smith, and those individuals are taking on their role with open arms.

“We’ve gotten a great opportunity as freshman to get a lot of minutes. If you look around the Ivy League and the NCAA I’m not sure you’d find a team as young as us,” Hansan said. “[The upperclassmen] have done a great job of setting the standard of competing in practice. Because we had that so early on, [we] have become a much more mature freshman class.”

Freshman Kepler Despinos emphasized that the juniors and seniors have been especially helpful in navigating the pace and physicality of the college game.

“They understand what the program is about,” Despinos said of how he has learned from his older teammates. “There’s never been a moment where we’ve felt like outsiders on the team. … They’re like a family away from home.”

The Red enters a tough two game stretch against No. 20 Dartmouth and No. 25 Columbia, teams ranked ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Ivy league respectively.

The loss to Princeton leaves Cornell tied with Brown for third in the league standings, just one game behind the Lions.

“I don’t overlook any opponents and I don’t build up any opponents to be anything that they’re not,” Smith said about upcoming contests. “We will certainly have a great deal of respect for our opponents because they’re two teams that deserve respect. [But] just like any team we face, we’re capable of beating them and we’ll get after it in both games.

“That’s something that I can promise.”

The Red will face Dartmouth away this Saturday at 1 p.m. for its final road contest of the season and will then cap off the the regular season with Senior Day at home Saturday, Nov. 11, against Columbia.