During a weekend marked by stormy weather and a lightning delay, the Red gave electrifying performances on the field, both away at Lafayette and home against visiting Buffalo, with the biggest highlight of the weekend coming in the form of a hat-trick by junior forward Daniel Haber on Sunday afternoon.
In the Red’s home opener against Buffalo, Haber scored three consecutive goals — giving him the first Cornell hat-trick in more than five years. The junior capped out the day with an assist, helping the Red (4-0-0) to remain undefeated with a 4-0 shutout.
“It was just a great team performance [against Buffalo], and I was able to get a couple goals, but my teammates really made me look great,” Haber said. “They fed me the ball in dangerous spots and everyone is playing their part.”
The solid teamwork, communication and determination on the field began days before for the Red during Friday night’s match against Lafayette (1-3-0). Despite kicking off on-time at 7 p.m., both teams had to halt play for a 57-minute lightning delay. However, the lightning could only hold off the Red’s explosive nature for so long.
“We had some good opportunities to score, but the rain delay came and right after that we lost a little bit of momentum,” said sophomore midfielder Conor Goepel. “Then, when we scored; it was totally against the momentum. It gave us both the goal and all the momentum back.”
While Lafayette seemed to have a strong control of the ball heading into the weather delay, the stoppage gave the Red an opportunity to bounce back and create and capitalize on scoring opportunities — outshooting the Leopards, 12-6. At the 40-minute mark, Goepel caught the ball after senior forward Tyler Regan sent it flying resulting from a breakout. Positioned about 30 yards from the goal, the midfielder fired off a curving shot from the right side and sent it hurtling to the opposite side, just beyond the open arms of Lafayette’s goalie — securing the 1-0 lead, which the Red would maintain throughout the rest of the game.
“It seemed like we were outplaying [Lafayette] in the first 20 minutes,” Haber said. “Then we got back on the field and the momentum shifted a little bit more their way. Conor Goepel had a great strike and really lifted the team and we carried with that the rest of the way. Not every game is going to be 4-0, so we need to learn how to grind out those close games.”
According to head coach Jaro Zawislan, the Red gave a strong performance on the pitch, fighting to gain control of the game’s momentum. The Red’s overall intensity was not greatly affected by the weather delay; however, Lafayette definitely stepped up its game, forcing the Red to respond accordingly.
“We kept the same high level of play, but Lafayette raised the level and made it more exciting and an interesting game,” Zawislan said. “Coming out of the lightning break, it was very important and helpful with the timing of the goal by [Goepel] — a great strike, a quality shot from second range.”
Scoring the first goal of a game or capitalizing on an opportunity at a critical point in the match can make all of the difference for a team heading into the second half of play. Zawislan stressed that momentum shifts have the potential to make a team come out stronger in the end.
“At that moment [we scored], it was against the momentum of the game, which was going in favor of Lafayette,” he said. “So that shifted the momentum and we took that lead into the half and in the second half we came out stronger again… At the end of the game we were so proud of the players and how they managed the game.”
Another strong performance during the tough bout came from the quick hands and solid footwork of senior netminder Rick Pflasterer, who recorded two saves for the Red in the second half. The win marked Pflasterer’s second shutout of the 2012 season — the first coming just a week before against Loyola Marymount on Sept. 2.
Earning a win against Lafayette, who is known for being a highly competitive opponent in the Patriot League, was key for the Red. It marked the first win against the Leopards since 2008, but more importantly, it represented the first time since 2007 that Cornell began its season with a 3-0 record. The victory also provided the Red with a fiery momentum as it headed into the home opener against Buffalo.
“Coming back from Lafayette the key was recovery — regeneration for [the game against Buffalo,]” Zawislan said. “It was a race against time when you have two games in one weekend. Players are putting a lot of milage on the field, covering a lot of ground during 90 minute games, [but] that was the most important thing — getting the legs underneath us again for this game.”
Zawislan stresses athleticism and staying healthy to his players, so being able to play at a high level of competition for both games was a key factor in the Red’s success. Much like in the game against Lafayette, the Red found itself playing against an aggressive opponent that claimed the momentum from the start. Buffalo proved to be an intimidating foe on the field, playing dirty and asserting its physical dominance on the field; however, Cornell showed that skill has a slight advantage over brute force.
“[Buffalo] had the first five to 10 minutes of play and then I felt like we had a large majority of play the rest of the game,” Goepel said. “That’s what happens when you get a nice goal pretty early in the game; you can back it up with another goal and start to pick up the play. That’s the way we want to play -- get the ball on the ground and start playing it around like we did [against Buffalo.]”
Junior defender Patrick Slogic put the Red on the board early, heading the ball into the net at the 21-minute mark after receiving a cross from Haber. The 6-5 defender sent the shot flying from the left side of the penalty box toward the upper right corner of the goal, where Buffalo’s goalie had no chance. This goal marked Slogic’s first of the season, as well as his 10th career point with the Red.
Haber closed out the first half six minutes later with his first goal of the day. The forward received the ball from sophomore outside left midfielder Atticus DeProspo, who brought it down the left flank. Crossing toward the middle of the field, DeProspo sent the ball hurtling to Haber, who was able to put it away for the point. This marked DeProspo’s second assist of the season, with his first coming during the season opener against Cal-State Fullerton on Aug. 31. The sophomore expressed that he is very excited to be contributing to the Red’s efforts on the field.
“It’s nice to be contributing to the team, but really our team is playing so well together,” he said. “We are really gelling well from everyone that starts to everyone off the bench is really contributing and doing a lot. We are looking to keep improving as the season goes on.”
Every player on the field for Cornell gave a strong effort, muscling through Buffalo’s offense and defense. Junior midfielder Stephen Reisert took a tumble with under one minute to go in the first half, sending his feet clear over his head after colliding with a Buffalo player. The second half was highlighted with equally aggressive play on both sides of the field; however, only the Red was able to capitalize on any scoring opportunities.
Haber fired off two more shots, in the 61st and 85th minutes, respectively, claiming both the hattrick and the game. For his second goal of the night, the forward caught the tail end of a series of passes between senior midfielder Nico Nissl and Goepel. Nissl had a breakout, after getting the ball away from a Buffalo player in the center of the field, then fed it off to Goepel, who tapped it to Haber. Haber beat the goalie and claimed the point.
With just over five minutes remaining in play, Haber completed the hat trick and sent fans to their feet. He had possession of the ball on the right side of the offensive zone and took it inside, running toward the net. Buffalo was unable to put any real pressure on him, so Haber whipped off the shot and set the ball into the net from the top of the box. With the goal, Haber became the first player to score three goals in a game, since Brian Kuritzky notched three against IUPUI on Sept. 2, 2007.
In addition to a strong showing from the Red’s offensive players, the defense staved off Buffalo’s attempts. Pflasterer only needed to make one save as he earned his third consecutive shutout of the season. Slogic, junior defenders Jake Rinow and Jake Kirsch and sophomore defender Peter Chodas held down the back line and provided Pflasterer with a solid brick wall.
“I can't say enough about the back four and the goalie,” Haber said. “Everyone on the team is playing well defensively. It was a great team performance.”
Looking toward the future, the team is excited to continue with the momentum that it has built over the past few games, according to DeProspo.
“I think that every day we are all excited to get to practice and do well, and the momentum to keep on going forward and continue improving as a team,” he said.