On the final day of the 2018 Ivy League season, men’s soccer hosted Cornell and conceded in overtime, losing the game 2-1 and any shot that Columbia had at finishing the season as Ivy League Champions.
The Lions (10-5-1, 5-2-0 Ivy) came into today’s game hoping for a result that would give them a chance at finishing the day above Princeton, who lead Columbia by one point. A win would have given the Lions the title if Princeton (10-4-2, 5-0-1 Ivy) lost or drew today to Yale, and a point against Cornell (11-6-0, 4-3-0 Ivy) would have given the Lions a chance to share the title with the Tigers if they lost to Yale.
The Lions’ start to the game seemed promising, as they earned six corner kicks in the first half and gave up none. In the 25th minute, on one of those corner attempts, senior midfielder Francisco Agrest found space and fired low from the top of the 18-yard box but just missed the target wide. Columbia ultimately challenged the Big Red keeper twice in the first half and looked like the stronger side, but went into the locker room still level with Cornell, 0-0.
The second half started out similarly to the first, with Columbia getting a few chances at goal but not changing the scoreline. In the 59th minute, however, first-year midfielder Sebastian Gunbeyi played a ground pass to junior midfielder John Denis down the wing on a breakaway. Denis dribbled into the box and shot across goal, the ball hitting the Cornell keeper but maintaining its trajectory into the back of the net.
A goal ahead and with strong possession, the Lions looked like they would force Princeton to fight for the title against Yale in New Haven.
The Big Red had other ideas, however, as 14 minutes later Cornell’s John Scearce got off a volley from just outside the box that beat senior goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira and landed in the bottom-right corner of the goal. With 18 minutes left of regulation time, Cornell and Columbia were even, 1-1.
For the remainder of the second half, Cornell looked stronger, forcing Castanheira, who broke Columbia’s program record for career clean sheets this season, to make four active saves, including one double save and another diving save to keep out a shot headed for the upper-right corner.
Heading into overtime, it seemed that either side could end the game with the next goal, but Cornell managed the win just six minutes into extra time with a powerful shot from Charles Touche that hit the underside of the crossbar and immediately bounced into the goal.
“It’s obviously disappointing when you know what’s on the line and what’s ahead of you,” head coach Kevin Anderson said.
Cornell’s goal ended the game at the Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium and crowned Princeton the 2018 Ivy League Champions before its final game of the season, which started against Yale at 4 p.m.
“At the end of the day we fell short, but I don’t think the focus should be that we fell short in this game,” Anderson said. “I think there’s other games where we didn’t get our job done, so that’s the harsh reality of our sport.”
Columbia’s only other conference loss this season was to Princeton, who as of this writing is tied 0-0 against Yale at halftime.
Without winning the league, Columbia will not get an automatic bid into the 2018 NCAA Tournament and will have to hope for an at-large bid, which is awarded to 24 teams nationwide that did not automatically qualify with a championship.
Last year, the Lions also finished in second place in the Ivy League and received an at-large bid, but having two Ivy teams in the NCAA Tournament has been historically rare.
The NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Committee will decide on which teams to add to this year’s tournament on Monday, Nov. 12.