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Men’s soccer upsets No. 20 Cornell for 6th straight win, could clinch Ivy win next weekend

<h5>Walker Gillespie shot against Rutgers.</h5>
<h6>Shelley Szwast / GoPrincetonTigers</h6>
Walker Gillespie shot against Rutgers.
Shelley Szwast / GoPrincetonTigers

The Princeton Tigers (10–5 overall, 5–0 Ivy) earned a hard-fought 2–1 victory against No. 20 Cornell (10–3–1, 3–2) on the afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 30 on Sherrerd Field. Coming into the match, Princeton sat atop the Ivy League standings with Cornell only a game behind. The intensity of the match mirrored its importance, as the teams combined for five yellow cards and a red.

During the opening minutes of the match, neither team was able to sustain possession. The ball mainly stayed in the midfield as possession switched back and forth.

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The intensity of the game switched in the 27th minute as Cornell was dealt a serious blow. During a breakaway for Princeton, sophomore forward Walker Gillespie was fouled by Cornell defender Henry Hylbert, who received a red card as a result. This cemented the tide of the game as Cornell was one player down on the field for the remainder of the match. “I felt him tugging on my back so I went down, and he got a red card,” Gillespie explained afterwards, “and I knew that at that point all we needed to do was score and the game was almost over.”

Gillespie made due on this, as within the minute, he knocked a header into the right corner pocket off a corner kick by senior midfielder/forward Kevin O’Toole. It was the first goal of the match, and Gillespie’s third of the season. 

The match’s aggressiveness continued throughout, with first-year defender Issa Mudashiru slamming into the ground after contact with his opponent. “I jumped higher than the guy I was battling with, made connection with the ball, and he kind of swept me,” Mudashiru said. “I couldn’t see, but I think he swept my legs and so I ended up falling on my shoulder. The referee thought I fell on my head.”

Cornell countered with a number of chances in the following minutes. In the 31st, Big Red forward Emeka Eneli made a run from the midfield towards the goal while being pressured by two Princeton defenders. Eneli managed to find room to shoot to the left bottom corner but was quickly denied by senior goalkeeper Jack Roberts.

The offensive rebound was picked up by midfielder Kurt Lehmkul, but again, Cornell was denied by Roberts seconds after the first try. The Big Red managed to gain possession of the ball once more, as forward Alioune Ka picked up the deflection and moved the ball towards the right of the goal. However, Princeton was quick to pressure the ball and force it out of bounds.

Determined to close the gap, Cornell played with vigor in the last minute of the first half, repeatedly moving the ball up the field and making several attempts to score, though to no avail. The teams went into halftime with Princeton leading 1–0.

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The Tigers’ offensive drive continued in the second half, as junior forward Daniel Diaz Bonilla scored his fourth of the year in the 55th minute to double the Tigers’ lead. After a diagonal pass to the left by O’Toole, Bonilla held the ball in his possession, waiting briefly for Cornell’s defense to overcommit before taking an open shot at the top of the net. Senior defender Alex Charles also received an assist on the goal.

With their commanding lead, the Tigers settled into a more defensive approach for the remainder of the game. However, Cornell finally snuck a goal past Roberts in the 88th minute. Eneli passed the ball to defender Connor Drought, who put the ball towards the 18-yard box. Big Red forward Griffin Gerrard was quick to react and deflected the ball just to the left of Rogers to get Cornell on the board.

Running off the adrenaline, Cornell scrambled to try and find the net again but was stifled by the Tigers’ backline. The score held and Princeton emerged with its sixth straight win.

“Cornell has a ton of really, really talented offensive players, so to keep them to one goal [...] is really a testament to our defense,” Roberts reflected. “Our backline did great. [Cornell’s] number 14 [Eneli] and number 12 [Tyler Bagley], in particular, are causing pretty much the whole country a lot of problems, so we did pretty well with them to keep them under us.”

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With two games remaining and a four point lead in the standings, the Tigers only need one more league win to secure first place. The team carries a victory-only mindset heading into its upcoming matches at Penn on Nov. 6 and then home against Yale on Nov. 13.

“The goal is always to win,” said Mudashiru. “We want to make another historic season — so that’s the goal: to get two more wins and finish off the season strong.”

Julia Nguyen is a staff writer for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at trucn@princeton.edu or on instagram at @jt.nguyen. 

Erin Lee is a staff writer for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at erinlee@princeton.edu.

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