MOUNT VERNON – Cornell men's soccer coach Andres Leza expects to see an improved team when his Rams take the field for Friday's opener at Saint Mary's.
The Rams kick off the season under the lights at 7 p.m. in Winona, Minn., followed by a road match Sept. 1 with Aurora (Ill.). The team opens the home slate Sept. 7 against MacMurray (Ill.), and then visits rival Coe Sept. 11.
Cornell will count on a handful of third- and fourth-year players to guide the 23-man squad. The Rams welcome back seven letterwinners, led by a back line featuring three-year starters Luke Farley (Sr., D), Cody Perreault (Sr., D) Jordan Setser (Sr., GK).
Juniors Adam Westerby (MF), Jeremy Kaden (MF) and sophomore Lukas Harrison (D) were also regular starters a year ago. Junior forwards Joseph Callan and Sam Stacy are key pieces back in the mix.
"We have strong, stable leadership this season," said Leza, entering his fourth season at the helm. "Our strongest players are the upperclassmen. These guys have earned it, and have showed it on the field since they were freshmen. I feel that we have better chemistry and culture on this team."
Setser was among the Midwest Conference leaders last season with 78 saves in 14 matches. He enters the fall with 315 saves, just 21 shy of the program's career record.
Farley is the team's top returning scorer, accounting for four assists last season. Westerby chipped in three points, while Perreault and Callan had one goal apiece.
The Rams have 10 first-year players, including nine freshmen.
Cornell went 0-5-1 in matches decided by a single goal last season. The team finished 0-17-1 overall, 0-9-1 in the MWC. The Rams are picked 11th in the MWC Preseason Coaches' Poll.
Leza believes better results are on the horizon.
"We're going to go out and play our game," Leza said. "We have a little bit more depth, top to bottom. The team has a good understanding of the offense. I feel that we will be in a lot more games."