Daniel Haber fights for the ball.  Photo by Celeste Cirillo-Penn.

By Celeste Cirillo-Penn

As the final whistle blew, a flood of sadness washed over the Cornell Men’s Soccer team.  Some players fell to the turf, some comforted each other, and others stood motionless watching as Syracuse’s players erupted into cheers. After a historic regular season for the Cornell men that included finishing 15-1 and winning the Ivy League Championships, their season came to an end with a heartbreaking 0-1 loss to Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday.

“It’s frustrating definitely,” junior forward, Daniel Haber said during a very solemn postgame press conference.  “I mean that’s the game of soccer.  It’s a game of inches.  It’s the battle with the defender and the forward.  If the forward can create that little bit of space to get around the defender and get the ball in the net.”

The Orange did just that, breaking down Cornell’s defense to net a goal 10 minutes into the game.  Syracuse defender, Tyler Hilliard passed the ball to forward Lars Muller, who was waiting in the box.  Muller was able to put the ball past Cornell keeper, Rick Pflasterer, to put the Orange on top 1-0.

Cornell bounced back from the early deficit, firing many shots into the box.  Syracuse’s defense, however, held strong.

“[We] had enough chances to put something away, especially in the first half,” senior forward, Tyler Regan said.  “We had some sitters in the box that just didn’t go in.”

In the second half, Cornell continued to outshoot Syracuse, but the majority of the shots did not challenge the Syracuse keeper, Alex Bono, who recorded a clean sheet in the match.

Cornell picked up the intensity in the final minutes of the game.  The men looked sure to finally break through and score, but the team fell just short.

However, despite the crushing loss, the men are determined to keep their heads up.

Nico Nissl keeps his head up after a tough loss against Syracuse.  Photo by Celeste Cirillo-Penn.

“We’re definitely sad with the result today, but we will definitely keep our heads high,” senior midfielder, Nico Nissl said.  “It’s been a privilege to play on this team.  We have a great squad … where we know that every single player’s got each other’s back.  We have got a great coaching staff that’s really committed to this team.”

Head coach, Jaro Zawislan agrees that despite the loss, the squad should still be proud of this season.

“As much as it is a great disappointment in the result, in the outcome of the game that we had today… we are not going to allow this result and this game to define our season,” Zawislan said.  “This still has been a very successful season for the Cornell soccer program, for the University, for the soccer community, and especially for the players.  I’m so proud of them, of the effort that they put forward this whole season … they are just a great example of the student athlete.  They put all the passion and love into this game.”

Zawislan also maintains that this season is just the beginning for the Cornell soccer program.

“We are going to turn around and use this as a momentum builder,” Zawislan said.  “[The] players left everything on the field, and we’re going to keep building on it …You want the instant gratification, but this group they know that they have to earn everything that they get out of this experience of being a soccer player at Cornell … for the returning players it’s the beginning of a new phase for the program.”