Zawislon Rallies Team, Fans as Soccer Showdown Approaches
Posted by Alex Gimenez on November 15, 2012
Cornell Soccer coach Jaro Zawislon was singing his players’ praises on Wednesday night, as the fourth year soccer coach caught up with the Insider before his team’s Thursday night showdown with Syracuse in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
“This season is an outcome of our players’ commitment to hard work, self-improvement and hunger for success,” remarked Zawislon. “Credit to the players for how we got here.”
In the wake of perhaps the biggest game in his coaching career, Zawilson is confident that his team will perform, and he is calling on Big Red sports fans to believe with him.
For the players, it is business as usual on campus. Classes must be attended on Thursday and for one player, there is a prelim just hours before game time.
The Big Red soccer program has been a star on the rise over the past four seasons under the direction of head coach Jaro Zawislon. This past weekend, the team made its final step by accomplishing a major goal: winning the Ivy League Conference. Playing at Columbia on Saturday, Big Red clinched their Ivy League title in a 1-0 contest on a goal by Ivy Player of the Year, Daniel Haber. The kick heard ’round Cornell has the Red hosting Syracuse University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night at Berman Field at 7:00 PM. It is there first time hosting the Tournament since 1977.
In a season in which the team was nearly undefeated, posting a 15-1 regular season record, the road to the NCAA Tournament was still not an easy one.
“Looking over the season, we had no easy games, every game was close, and we had to be on our game both offensively and defensively throughout,” said coach Zawislon.
However this team was well prepared for the trials and tribulations of the regular season. Building off of a very successful 2011 campaign, the team put together a strong spring season and were primed for the 2012 regular season months before it was even set to begin.
This posed a unique complication for Zawislon and his club, as the summer months stood in between them and the regular season, but incredible hard work and self-regulation over the summer allowed them to carry their strides from the spring right into the regular season.
In an era in which many teams are led by only a few key players, Big Red finds success in the collective effort put in by the team. Functioning as a nearly symbiotic unit they find ways to win big games by working together and that is the way is has been in the four years that coach Zawislon has been at the helm. He preaches the importance of team play and hard work and the Big Red have embraced this approach in their style of play.
That being said, the team does have its share of recognizable players, with Haber, goalie Rick Pflasterer, defender Patrick Slogic, and forward Tyler Regan all making First Team All-Ivy and midfielders Nico Nissi and Stephen Reisert making second team All-Ivy.
“There will be individual awards coming our teams way, but even the best players and award recipients on this team will tell the world that their success is a product of the rest of the team and the overall team success to which they contribute,” said Zawislon.
This dynamic and the success it brings with it should come as no surprise based on how this team has been built and developed. Zawislon has developed a program for his team that rivals those of professional players. The Big Red are expected to live a certain lifestyle, taking care of themselves off the field with nutritional programs and physical maintenance, and on the field with intense training routines. To the casual fan, this may seem rather strenuous to the average college soccer fan, but the coaching staff only brings in players who they believe mesh with the program and stress that on this team, academics come first.
“Players on this team stay humble, stay focused on the next thing, the next day. They don’t worry about the big picture too far down the road. It’s always about the next game, one play at a time, one game at a time,” said Zawislon.
When recruiting players, Zawislon and his staff look at three major areas of focus: Academics, Soccer Ability, and Character. By doing this, they have established a way of targeting the right type of players for the program, and it is certainly hard to argue with the results. They are looking for technical ability, tactical awareness, mental strength, and a strong athletic foundation in their student athletes. Most importantly, they seek out players who have passion and love for the game. This appears to be the winning combination, as the team has improved in each of the four seasons under Zawislon.
This improvement will be on display Thursday night, before a packed house at Berman Field.
“Myself, my coaching staff, and the athletic community at Cornell provide the environment for success, but the players have to put in the effort to improve,” said Zawislon. For the Big Red, they continue to do just that.