All good things must come to an end.
On Saturday afternoon, No. 18 Brown snapped No. 10 Cornell’s 12-game undefeated streak, handing the Red its first loss of the season. In front of packed stands at Stevenson Field, the Bears (11-1-2, 3-0-1 Ivy League) sent Cornell (12-1-0, 3-1-0) home with a 0-2 loss.
“The game was exactly what we expected — two nationally ranked teams going into the game, both teams ready to go after a positive result and execute their game plans,” said head coach Jaro Zawislan. “We knew that the game would be very tight defensively and that every opportunity or chance that we would have to score a goal we would have to work hard for to earn it.”
In addition to ending the team’s perfect season record, the loss also bumped Cornell out of the top spot in the Ivy League rankings. Assuming the lead with 10 points, Brown now controls the future of the conference, as Cornell, Dartmouth and Princeton sit tied at No. 2.
With three games left to play in the regular season, the Red is still hungry for positive outcomes, even though the team’s record-making run has ended.
“We don’t have that undefeated streak chip on our shoulders anymore,” said senior goalie Rick Pflasterer. “We’re not looking for anything more than getting results now.”
Sophomore Ben Maurey scored the game-winner for Brown at just 4:34 in the first half. The 6-5 forward rocketed the ball past Cornell’s senior netminder Rick Pflasterer after Maurey’s teammate, senior midfielder Bobby Belair, picked up a rebound and passed the ball over. Despite fighting through a tough 85 minutes in an attempt at a comeback, the Red was unable to break through the Bears’ defensive third and ended the game scoreless for the first time since 2010.
“I am very proud of our players with regards to their work rate and for competing for the whole game,” Zawislan said. “It came down to as much as we executed very well on the middle third on the field. We needed to execute better on our defensive third and our attacking third. It came down to a couple of plays in our defensive third that we know we can do better. In our attacking third we’ve had enough opportunities to score goals, we just need to be a little bit sharper and that is what we will be working on and improving.”
Brown sealed the win with 19:30 remaining in the second half, when Cornell scored an own goal. Pflasterer dove to punch away a long shot attempt by Brown sophomore defender Alex Markes; however, instead of sending the ball away from the net, Pflasterer sent it directly into teammate Peter Chodas’ body and back into the net. The Red was unable to rebound from the final goal, despite outshooting Brown, 8-2, in the second half.
While the final box score may suggest a one-sided game, both teams brought a high level of intensity to the field — making the contest resemble a playoff match.
“We felt like we outplayed them and we felt like we had enough chances, but we weren’t sharp enough in the final third,” said junior striker Daniel Haber.
Throughout the 90 minutes of play, Cornell had an edge over Brown in shots, 15-10, and corner kicks, 8-3; however, the Bears led the way in fouls, 15-10. The game also featured caution cards being award to three Cornell players and two Brown players.
“It was very competitive in that game — we had a lot of transition plays, both attacking and defensively,” said junior defensive midfielder Ben Williams. “I’d say in terms of our team, it was one of our better games defensively. We were able to close down a lot of space quickly and repossess balls and transition to attack.”
Cornell fought hard to create scoring opportunities, with Haber and senior forward Tyler Regan trying to sneak one past senior Sam Kernan-Schloss in net at the top of the second half. Chodas set the ball to Haber at the top of the penalty box, but the Toronto-native was unable to beat the Brown keeper. Kernan-Schloss knocked Haber’s shot away from the goal and in Regan’s direction, but the Red forward was unable to pressure the ball enough to send it into the net.
“Our biggest difficulty was connecting passes in the final third,” Williams said. “We just couldn’t get the one pass that we needed to get the goal.”
Kernan-Schloss recorded four saves in the game, equaling Pflasterer for the day. Sophomore defender Matt Mardesich also tried to create a momentum change after the own goal, but Kernan-Schloss tipped the header attempt over the top of the net, forcing a corner kick, which Cornell could not convert.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result we wanted,” Regan said. “We don’t think that we played poorly and we are looking forward to our ultimate goal, which is winning the Ivy League title and making it to the [NCAA] tournament.”
Cornell looks to put the tough loss behind it, as the team has already begun preparing for its home game against Princeton — another formidable team in the Ancient Eight.
“There is really little margin for error in [Ivy League] games and definitely the final outcome in the game is decided in the small differences in execution of the game plan,” Zawislan said. “I don’t expect anything else but the best week of training from our group — the sharpest, most intense, most focused. It just speaks to the character of this group.”
Cornell will also spend the next week focusing on sharpening in the defensive and attacking third and converting on scoring opportunities.
“We’ll have a good week of training,” Haber said. “We know that we have the talent level and the chemistry to break teams down in other ways, so we’ll improve on that.