Men's soccer looks to continue momentum
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Men's Soccer - Tue, Aug. 29, 2017

MOUNT VERNON – The Cornell men's soccer program is coming off its best season by winning percentage in 25 years.

Coach Nate Grosse is hopeful that was only the starting point for where the Rams are headed. Cornell returns the nucleus from last year's 8-6-4 squad and looks to make a move in the Midwest Conference, despite being picked sixth in the MWC Preseason Coaches' Poll.

"As a program, we definitely have higher goals," said Grosse, entering his fourth year at the helm. "We have a lot of guys with 2-3 years of experience. I think the pieces are there. It will come down to some of the intangibles. We need to use our maturity, maintain our focus and continue to work hard to reach our goals."

The season kicks off Sept. 3 with a 3 p.m. home match against Blackburn. It's the first of six straight nonconference matches before the Rams host MWC title contender Lake Forest on Sept. 23.

The Ram roster features 16 returning players and 12 newcomers, making this the largest team Grosse has fielded.

"As a program, that's what we have been working towards," Grosse said. "The new players are creating more competition in training. It's a positive thing all the way around."

Cornell is led offensively by one of the league's top young players in sophomore Facundo Benavidez (SO/Buenos Aires, Argentina), a second team all-MWC pick last year whose 24 total points ranked fourth on Cornell's single-season list. Benavidez finished fourth in the MWC with 11 goals. Pietro Amado (JR/Sao Paulo, Brazil) is another scoring threat, posting seven goals and 16 points a year ago.

Benavidez and Amado are among 13 returning Rams who played at least 10 matches last season. Juniors Ethan Berube (JR/Cottage Grove, Minn.), Brett Harris (JR/Dubuque, Iowa), Kean Johansen (JR/Minneapolis, Minn.), Isaiah Jones (JR/Denver, Colo.) and Jerome Richards (JR/Urbandale, Iowa) were regulars in last year's starting lineup.

Richards started all 18 matches at goalkeeper, recording 85 saves and three shutouts. His 1.31 goals allowed average is the second-lowest by a Ram keeper. Richards will be in competition with senior Shaun Boerner (SR/Overland Park, Kan.).

Cornell's newcomers include three promising transfers in Logan Wright (JR/Davenport, Iowa) (Ripon College), Maxwell Ishmael (SO/Ossining, N.Y.) (University of Bridgeport) and Gabriel Ximenes (SO/Brasilia, Brazil) (Monroe College).

"We should be strong on both sides of the ball," Grosse said. "We want to build upon last year. The coaches are excited and the players feel that excitement too."