The men’s soccer team will play the Harvard Crimson this Saturday in its second Ivy League game this season. The No. 18 Red (9-0-0, 1-0-0 Ivy League) has been preparing all week for what could be the Red’s toughest challenge so far.
“It’s not going to come easy,” said senior goalkeeper Rick Pflasterer. “You’re not just going to go out and get a win.”
The team is going into this game with what has currently been the best starting season for a Cornell soccer team since 1995. With a 9-0 record, Cornell is one of two teams in the country to boast a perfect record — all wins, no ties and no losses. A Cornell player has been the Ivy Player of the Week for the last four weeks in a row.
“I’m very happy for our players,” said head coach Jaro Zawislan. “Their hard work is paying off, and the results that the team is getting on the field are the reflection of their work during preseason, the spring season and the winter season.”
According to Zawislan, one of the team’s greatest strengths is its ability to remain humble in the wake of its success and to continue to approach each game as if its record were 0-0. If anything, the team has only increased its level of intensity in practice and on the field as the wins keep coming, determined to not let any team outplay it and hurt its chances for the Ivy League Championship.
“At every game we play, anything can happen,” Pflasterer said. “We need to stay humble and keep striving for our goal, which is the Ivy League Title. We need to strive for that everyday.”
“Every Ivy game is a very important game,” added senior midfielder Nico Nissl. “The game can always go either way, so we have to make sure that we’re focused and we’re working hard.”
The Red will find a tough opponent in the Crimson. While Harvard’s record may pale in comparison to the Red’s, Zawislan noted that the Crimson’s record was misleading because the team has only played other highly-nationally ranked teams, and has lost each game by very close margins.
“They won’t be satisfied with two ties against Yale and Boston College at home,” Zawislan said. “Their record does not reflect the quality of the team they are, and how tough they are to play against. Everyone recognizes that this will be a hard game.”
Another key strength for the Cornell team is how they work as a defensive unit. Both Nissl and Pflasterer cited the team’s strategy of having all players on the field act as defenders as one of the key reasons the team has had so much success in creating scoring opportunities. The team has not managed to walk off of the field with a shutout in its last few games, which according to Pflasterer is something the team needs to continue to work on.
“It’s key that all 11 players are on the same page,” Nissl said. “As soon as one person doesn’t defend, the whole defensive system falls through.”
“When we give up a goal we’re right back in it,” Pflasterer added. “We’re battling, and often we play our best soccer. Unfortunately, we need to get to that best level of play before that goal. We need to figure out how to be awake.”
With Fall Break beginning, according to Zawislan, this weekend will be a time for the players to buckle down and focus on maintaining their level of play.
“This is the most important game and the toughest game on our schedule, and that’s because it’s our next game.”