The No. 18 men's soccer team put an end to No. 10 Cornell's undefeated season and reign atop the Ivy League with a 2-0 victory Saturday afternoon in front of a boisterous crowd at Stevenson Field. With three conference games left in the season, the Bears (11-1-2, 3-0-1 Ivy) have put themselves in prime position to defend their co-league title and keep it out of the hands of the previously dominant Big Red (12-1-0, 3-1-0).
"It was a big win playing against an undefeated and outstanding attacking team, and I have to give credit to our team for doing a fantastic job limiting their chances," said Head Coach Patrick Laughlin. "It was a really intense Ivy League battle."
"We didn't play as much soccer as we wanted to, but we finished our chances, played good defense and got a good result," defender Dylan Remick '13 said. He explained that keeping the Big Red off the board was a particularly big accomplishment since Cornell has the Ivy's leading goal scorer, Daniel Haber, leading the attack. Haber has 16 goals on the season, trailing only Elon University's Chris Thomas for the national lead.
The Big Red's perfect record was anything but daunting to the Bears, who played aggressively from the start. An early goal by Ben Maurey '15 - his third game-winning score of the season - put Cornell on the back foot less than five minutes into the match. Midfielder Bobby Belair '13 launched a shot toward the net off a nice cross from the left by Remick that was parried by goalkeeper Rick Pflasterer, but the rebound caromed to Maurey who nailed the ball into the open net.
"Fortunately for us, we scored an early goal," said co-captain Ryan McDuff '13. After this score, "we were still adjusting and trying to figure out how to play against them. Sometimes it comes down to just figuring out how to win and that's just what we did."
"Ben's goal in the first five minutes really took them out of the game," said goalie Sam Kernan-Schloss '13.
Neither team scored for the remainder of the first half, and a tense battle persisted as both teams controlled the ball for stretches of the game. Bruno went into the break holding an 8-7 advantage in shots.
The Big Red came out strong after the half with its best chance to score coming in the first minute of play. After a pass from Peter Chodas, Haber nailed a shot from the top of the penalty box that appeared to be headed into the back of the net. But Kernan-Schloss made a spectacular diving save, and though the rebound came out into the open field, Tyler Regan's attempt went directly at Kernan-Schloss for a second save on the play.
The Big Red pressed on, gaining an 8-2 advantage in shots, but Bruno's defense held strong.
"The back four did what they've been doing all season, which is preventing the other team from getting any clear chances on goal," Kernan-Schloss said.
"Our defense was a huge part of our success and they were amazing on the day," said Voltaire Escalona '13.
The game fell out of Cornell's reach when they scored an own goal with less than 20 minutes remaining. Alex Markes '15 put in an unconventional cross with the outside of his right foot after a pass from Daniel Taylor '15. Pflasterer punched the shot attempt away, but it went off a Big Red defender into the net to give the Bears a 2-0 lead.
"There was lots of emotion and both teams fought really hard, but I think we showed that we are clearly the better team and we are very happy to be in first place in the Ivy League," Escalona said. "Ending their undefeated streak was a great feeling - it was a great win for Brown soccer."
The team's focus must now turn to the remainder of the season, he added.
"We need to continue to train hard and prepare for each of the last three games one at a time," Escalona said.
With two pivotal wins last week under their belts, the Bears are invigorated and will likely climb in this week's national rankings.
But McDuff said that "it's not just about the rankings ... We are making sure to put out our best each day and believe this is what will make us successful."
Laughlin echoed his defender's sentiment.
"Our goals haven't changed - they've been the same all season," Laughlin said. "We are just trying to get better, play better, figure out what we're good at and keep moving forward so that we are playing our best soccer at the end of the season."
The Bears' regular season continues with a trip to Philadelphia to face Penn (2-11, 0-4 Ivy) Saturday.