The men's soccer team was able to bookend its 2005 season with wins after a 2-0 triumph over Cornell last Saturday. What came in the middle of the season, however, was a complete loss.Columbia finished this fall's campaign at 4-12-1, 1-6 Ivy and in last place in the Ivy League, producing one of the team's more disappointing seasons in recent memory. While the defense was at times guilty of lapses in concentration, the story of the season was the offense, or a glaring lack thereof, as the Lions tallied 11 goals all year. In addition, only three of those goals came in conference play."We had two poor matches out of 17-the Brown match (3-1 loss) and the Quinnipiac match (4-2 loss)," head coach Dieter Ficken said. "In all our other matches we outplayed our opponents, we had the majority of the possession, but our inability to convert the many created chances was the stumbling block."What was most frustrating to the Lions and their fans this season was not so much the losses, but the way they were losing. Of their 12 setbacks nine were by one goal, and seven of those were 1-0 games in which a momentary lapse in the defense allowed the opposition to score the eventual game-winner. During one eight-game stretch that encompassed their entire Ivy season save the Cornell game, the Lions were on the wrong end of six 1-0 contests, two of which were decided in overtime."I would have been very unhappy had we not been able to create chances," Ficken said. "The frustration set in when those chances were not converted. And many of them should have been converted.""We're talking about hitting the crossbar," Ficken continued. "We're talking about misses from the six-meter line, constantly throughout the season." In spite of the scoring futility, the Lions yielded just 21 goals all season for an opponents' scoring average of 1.21 goals per game. Goalkeepers Alex Maffeo, the junior starter who missed a number of games due to injury, and sophomore Michael Testa, who boasted a 0.85 goals against average, formed a tandem that Ficken dubbed "among the best goalkeepers in the league." The two split time between the posts and kept other teams out of the net for long enough stretches to keep the Lions in the game.Manning the back line were senior defenders Sekou Cox and Blake Lindberg, both of whom were named to the All-Ivy second team after solid seasons in the backfield. With the absence of captain Greg Cass, another defensive stalwart who missed the entire season due to injury, freshmen James Pounder and Shaun Rowatt were forced into playing significant roles protecting the Lion net. Pounder tallied one goal, one of only five Lions do so, in his inaugural collegiate campaign."Our defensive posture was outstanding throughout the year," Ficken remarked. "We had some momentary glitches that were mistakes. Someone would make an individual mistake and [the opposition] just pounced on them. And that's soccer."The soccer the Lions played early on was promising. They kicked off the season with a 1-0 victory over Hofstra at Columbia Soccer Stadium with sophomore Chris Wales supplying the offense. Wales would go on to score three goals total, good for second most on the team.The Lions would play their next eight games-the entirety of their non-conference schedule-away from home. They began the road trip with back-to-back losses to Marist and Hartwick but evened their record at .500 with a 2-1 win against Oneonta. Junior midfielder John Mulhern tallied both goals in the game on his way to a team-leading five for the season. Mulhern, in addition to sophomore midfielder Tom Heinbockel, was also selected to the All-Ivy second team.The Lions went on to win just one of their remaining five non-conference games, a 1-0 win over Stony Brook that witnessed the breakout of freshman striker Tom Smith. Ficken repeatedly referred to Smith throughout the season as the Lions' offensive catalyst and "one of the best young forwards in the Ivy League." Unfortunately, Smith was plagued all season long by injury and was never able to find a rhythm, playing in a limited role in only 12 games and notching only that one goal.The turning point in the season may very well have been the Brown game, the Lions' first Ivy League match of the season. Thirty-four seconds in Mulhern chipped in his fourth goal of the season to give the Lions a 1-0 lead. But less than five minutes later Brown scored the equalizer with the help of a somersault throw-in from thirty yards out, and would go on to sandwich two more goals around halftime to coast to a convincing 3-1 victory.From there the Lions would go on to lose five of their next six games-the only non-loss a draw with Adelphi-by the demoralizing score of 1-0, and only narrowly avoided a winless Ivy League campaign with the end-of-season win over Cornell."It was a very mixed bag of emotions this year," Ficken said. "Frustration, to a high degree, but elation because they learned how to play better and better and better. During the months of October and November they just outplayed all the opponents. And they knew they had. They just didn't get the types of goals that they did against Cornell.""The opportunities were there," Ficken continued. "We should have done better. But we didn't."...
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I was scrolling through the new-fangled Columbia athletics Web site the other day and noticed that the men's golf team is competing in a tournament this weekend. It's their last one of the season. Which got me thinking: Who knew this tournament was happening? Who out there even knows we have a golf team? And, more urgently perhaps, who are these guys?...