Sophomore and reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year Emeka Eneli and the Red have a tough slate of games in 2019, including their yearly matchup with perennial powerhouse Syracuse.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Sophomore and reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year Emeka Eneli and the Red have a tough slate of games in 2019, including their yearly matchup with perennial powerhouse Syracuse.

August 29, 2019

Building on Its Progress: A Look at Men’s Soccer’s 2019 Season

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After its most successful season to date under head coach John Smith, men’s soccer looks to follow up its performance in 2019 with continued improvement.

The season will kick off on September 6 in Ann Arbor, with the team continuing on to play at Michigan State two days later.

Smith — who, in three years, has led the team from a 1-14-2 record to 11-6 — coached Cornell to a fourth-place Ivy finish last season. This year, preseason polls project the Red to finish at third in the conference. Princeton is the favorite, having received 11 first-place votes; Dartmouth and Cornell came in second and third with three votes and one vote, respectively.

Eleven starters will return to the lineup, including reigning Ivy Rookie of the Year sophomore forward Emeka Eneli and All-Ivy selections junior forward Charles Touche, sophomore defender Tate Keir and senior midfielder John Scearce.

Touche was Cornell’s lone representative on the All-Ivy First Team, having led the league in both points and goals during the season and scoring a hat trick against Harvard — the first by a Cornell player since 2012. He was the first Cornell player named to the team in four years; Rookie of the Year honors had not gone to a Cornellian since 1997.

As Smith looks to build upon his success and continue along his team’s trajectory of steady improvement, he has put an emphasis on recruiting top talent. New to the roster will be seven freshman additions to the team.

“An incredible amount of work has gone in over the last year or so to shape what we believe to be a class which will represent this program exceptionally,” Smith said of the Class of 2023.

Among these newcomers is midfielder Kurt Lehmkuhl, who attended high school with and played for the same club team as Eneli in Ohio.

The freshmen, however, have their work cut out for them, as they need to keep up with their more experienced teammates in order to merit playing time.

“As good as the staff feels this group is, we couldn’t be happier in the realization that they will have a battle on their hands with a group of talented returners who have bought in from day one,” Smith said.

Each of Smith’s players must put forth their strongest effort with the knowledge that receiving playing time isn’t a given. On a team that has steadily climbed in the rankings since the head coach took over, maintaining a competitive edge is vital for the Red not to slip in the standings.

While the Red will play at University of Michigan and Michigan State next weekend, the team’s homecoming will be on September 14 against Fairleigh Dickinson. Ivy play will commence at Penn on October 5.

Out-of-conference highlights will include the two games in Michigan and matches against the University of Akron and upstate rival Syracuse, all of which are considered top-30 teams going into the season. A schedule bolstered with such formidable opponents demonstrates the program’s commitment to showing it is not the same team that went 1-14-2 in 2016.

Cornell will take the field for the first time in 2019 against the Wolverines at 5 p.m. on September 5.