Cornell men’s soccer will return to the road this Saturday to take on Harvard as it continues its quest to win the Ivy title, facing off against another squad with a 1-0 mark in conference play. The rivalry match comes just as Cornell has been ranked No. 24 in the country in the United Soccer Coaches poll.
The Crimson (3-6, 1-0 Ivy League) will enter the match with a worse overall record as compared to the Red (7-2, 1-0), but the squads both won their Ivy League opener and thus will be looking to seize another to advance in the standings.
Despite the discrepancies between the teams’ records, Cornell head coach John Smith believes Harvard is a strong team. Harvard has fared a tough schedule to start the season, and that may well be the reason for its under-.500 mark, according to Smith.
“They have weapons in a number of areas,” he said. “We’re going to have to do a strong job defensively to shut them out.”
No matter who Cornell is playing, the Red approaches the game the same way. Ahead of a match with Harvard that will prove vital to the team’s prospects of capturing the conference title, the Red will prepare just as it has all year long. Part of that preparation — in addition to recognizing that all foes can prove challenging — is the notion that no team is one which Cornell is not able to beat.
“For us, it’s about mentally preparing our guys for a very good team,” Smith said. “We respect every opponent just about enough; we don’t respect opponents too much.”
Road games are nothing new to this Cornell team, given that they’ve played six already this season — five of which have resulted in victories.
With eight games left to play, the Red is looking to increase its intensity through this middle third of the season.
“You can’t call it a good season until we finish all 17 games … and we’ve hopefully won the Ivy League,” said freshman forward and midfielder Emeka Eneli, whose five goals lead the team — an impressive statline for the rookie who has been crucial in the early going of 2018 for the Red.
The Red has six more conference matches ahead of it, in addition to bouts with regional foes Colgate and Albany. The upcoming stretch that begins in eastern Massachusetts will provide exactly the test that Cornell needs to prove it can compete with the best in the Ancient Eight.
“The middle part of the season is where championships are won,” Smith said.
Coming off of a four-game winning streak, the team seeks to maintain its focus in the midst of a slew of strong showings on the pitch.
“It’s going to definitely give us a little dose of confidence,” Eneli said. “But at the same time we can’t get complacent.”
The hallmark of the 2018 season so far has been the impressive performance of the team given its youth — the Red has only seven upperclassmen on its roster out of a total of 26 players. Cornell hopes to continue that as an advantage as it travels for its first conference tilt on the road this season.
“We don’t have much experience, but what we do have is … no fear, basically, when we go into a game,” Eneli said of the team’s youth.
The match will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday at Harvard’s Jordan Field.