Cornell clinches program's second outright Ivy title behind Haber's goal
NEW YORK – Much of the drama was eliminated as the Big Red clinched a NCAA tournament berth without playing a game on Friday night, but the team made sure it had plenty of reason to celebrate on Saturday.
With a 1-0 win at Columbia, Cornell finished the regular season with its first outright Ivy League title since 1977 and just the second outright league title in program history.
The Big Red's excellence all year long was capped by yet another goal from Daniel Haber, and Cornell celebrated on the Lions' home turf in front of a largely pro-Cornell crowd. The team was presented with the Ivy League trophy after the victory and ran to the stands to rejoice with the Big Red fans in attendance.
“The fan support was unbelievable at the game, and once the time ran out it was just a mad convergence of fans and players just jumping up and cheering and shouting," senior goalie Rick Pflasterer said. "I don't know how to describe it. It was so cool to share it with so many people.”
The win was Cornell's first against Columbia since 2010 and gave the team six Ivy League victories for the first time since 1995.
Though Cornell (15-1, 6-1) came into the game against Columbia (4-8-4, 2-3-2) knowing it had already earned a spot in the NCAA tournament and could do no worse than share the league title with a loss to the Lions, the Big Red left no doubt about its Ivy claim with a dominating win against the Lions.
“We definitely celebrated very well after we found out that Dartmouth beat Brown [Friday night], but our focus for the Columbia game was the same as every game," senior midfielder Nico Nissl said. "It was very important for us as a stepping stone transitioning to the NCAA game."
When the dust had settled, Cornell had bested Columbia in all major statistics including a 6-2 advantage in shots on goal, 15-5 in total shots and a 5-4 margin in corner kicks.
Cornell got on the board early in the first half with Haber's goal, his 18th of the season. His strike came just as the clock passed the 14-minute mark. Nico Nissl had taken a shot 10 seconds before, and Columbia's Brendan O'Hearn failed to clear the ball far enough away from goal. Jake Rinow was there to head the clearance back into the box, Haber found the ball at his feet in a dangerous spot and he did not miss.
Cornell had plenty of opportunities in the 75 minutes after that, but it would not need another goal as Pflasterer made saves on the Lions' two shots on goal and the Big Red defense played a stifling effort. The back line of Jake Kirsch, Patrick Slogic, Peter Chodas and Jake Rinow was again terrific, helping Cornell to its seventh shutout of the season.
Plfasterer's win, his 15th of the year, breaks the school single-season record for wins and puts him just one behind the school record for wins in a career (29).
The Big Red used 14 players in the victory including Matt Kagie, Devin Morgan and Conor Goepel off the bench. Goepel played in his first game since the Yale contest nearly a month ago.
Cornell, a lowly 1-15 during the 2008 season, completely flipped that record around as it finished 15-1 this year with at least one more game still to go. The journey was a long one, capped by an Ivy League trophy on Saturday night.
“When we were first starting out, our visions weren't of winning the Ivy League, that's for sure," Pflasterer said. "Now finally all the work we've put in over the last four years has paid off. We've accomplished an Ivy League championship, but we have another step to go in the NCAA tournament.”