Photo by Al Rinow
Streaking–The Cornell Big Red are 8-0-5 their past 13 games, the longest stretch without a loss since the 1995.
They say history repeats itself, but for the Cornell men’s soccer team in recent years, it appeared that repeat button may have been broken.
However, the 2011 season marks the teams surprise 8-1-5 start and first place standing (3-0-2) in Ivy League play with two regular season games remaining.
What has been the most remarkable is that the Big Red are currently riding a 13-game lose-less streak (8-0-5), second only to New Mexico (15) for the longest streak in the nation.
Last season, the Big Red did not win a single Ivy League game (0-5-2), and before head coach Jaro Zawislan arrived in 2009, the Big Red finished the 2008 season 1-15.
The always modest Zawislan believed he could make a dissertation out of the question as to why the Big Red have improved so drastically over the past three seasons.
“Well, how much time do we have to talk about it?” Zawislan said. “Because I can go on for hours about the transition of (Cornell soccer) the past two-plus years.”
“I mean when I came to the program (in 2008), it was my first head coaching position and we started with a philosophy that there’s a fresh start to the program. My record at the time as head coach was zero wins, zero losses, zero ties, and that’s the (philosophy) I expected out of the players—to come with a kind of fresh attitude and forget about the past seasons and just look forward towards the future.”
However, sophomore forward Daniel Haber believed there was a more simpler answer: the team’s dedication to the matriculation of the program has guided the Big Red in the right direction.
“I think that (Jaro’s) done a very good job of really bringing in guys that are committed,” Haber said. “Everyone in the program right now…they’re number one priority is soccer. Everyone is willing to do whatever it takes year round to make the program better.
According to Zawislan, anticipating the high level of competition in Ivy League play compelled the players to respond even hungrier in 2011.
“This season, the returning players came back ready to tackle the challenges of the preseason and season,” he said. “Newcomers came in and they were ready to contribute right off the bat so it’s been a very highly competitive environment in our program and that’s just what makes us better week to week, and from game to game.”
What started as a little hot streak turned into a surprising 1-0 win in the Ivy League opener against Penn Oct. 1 in Philadelphia, as Haber’s goal with less than two minutes remaining in regulation gave the Big Red a win to open conference play for the first time since 2005.
“Penn’s a great team and they’ve been going to the tournament for the last few years and been nationally recognized consistently and we knew that being able to get a win against them would be a big turning point for the program as a whole,” said Haber. “I think it really gave us a big sense of confidence where we feel like after that (win) we can take down anyone if we play our game.”
And thus far, nobody has been able to take the Big Red down in nearly two months. That is unless their opponents consider ties moral victories.
The Big Red’s game versus Brown Oct. 22 drew 983 fans, a Berman Field record, a double overtime thriller that ended in a 1-1 tie.
The Big Red travel to Hanover, N.H. to take on Dartmouth this Saturday, a game that has serious Ivy League title implications considering the Big Green trail the Big Red by two points in the Ivy Standings in a two-way tie with Brown for second place.
Then, the Big Red close out their regular season when they host Columbia on Saturday, Nov. 12, a game that with a win has the possibility of being the Big Red’s first ticket to the NCAA Tournament since 1996.
And Haber stressed the importance of the last two regular games of the season, and what it would mean for a program whose last Ivy League crown was in 1995 to not only win the league championship, but also extend their season.
“We’re going to do our best to finish out the season strong,” he said. “We want to win the Ivy League. We want to get to the NCAA tournament. Those are our goals. But no matter what looking back on the season it will be a success. Big step forward for the program, for now and for the future…”