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A Fitting End: The Final Chapter for Soccer’s Seniors

Rarely in sports do we see the cliché “storybook ending” to an athlete’s career.  Simply put, the majority of collegiate and professional athletic careers burn out with sub-par performances or severe injury.  A few months ago, the sports world witnessed one of the most memorable exceptions to this trend in the form of Derek Jeter’s final home at-bat as a New York Yankee.  Jeter, defying all odds in typical “Jeterian” fashion, jumped on a first-pitch fastball in the bottom of the 9th inning.  The result: a walk-off single through the right side for the Captain.  For one glorious moment on a Thursday night in the Bronx, it didn’t matter that the Yankees were going to miss the postseason for the second year in a row.  It didn’t matter that, statistically speaking, Jeter was having the worst year of his career.  What was important was that Derek Jeter had one of the most unforgettable closing acts of any athlete.  In the strikingly appropriate words of Ian Darke, “you [truly] could not write a script like this.”

Just last week, the curtain fell on the careers of several other captains; four to be exact.  At Rocco B. Commisso Stadium, the home venue for the Columbia Men’s Soccer team, Cornell Soccer’s four captains finished off their time on the hill in, well, very Jeter-esque fashion.  Going into their last match, midfielder Conor Goepel, right back Peter Chodas, center back Devin Morgan, and keeper Zach Zagorski had shaped one of the most successful senior classes in program history.  With four consecutive winning seasons and an Ivy League Championship under their belt, Cornell’s captains exemplified unmatched leadership and performance.  Partially due to this tremendous success, it was slightly disappointing to see the Big Red end their season with a match of little importance.  Having been eliminated from Ivy League Championship contention, Cornell would be playing for pride more than anything else.  Yet the captains of the Big Red showed up with the classic Jeter-approach: win above all else.

Zagorski made two of the finest saves you will see in collegiate soccer to keep the match tied.  Morgan used his unparalleled athleticism to make a game-saving slide tackle.  Chodas sent a superb cross into the box in the 2nd OT period.  And Goepel clinched it.  A double overtime, game-winning goal orchestrated by two captains, and backed by two others.  On that Saturday night at Columbia, it didn’t matter that Cornell wasn’t going to be playing in the NCAA tournament.  It was an appreciation match for the Big Red’s senior captains.  It was a moment to thank four of the most meaningful members in Cornell soccer history for their unquestioned commitment.

After Goepel’s shot found its mark in the back of Columbia’s net, the team, and the Big Red faithful who had made the long trek to the city, celebrated.  Just as Jeter had done for those at Yankee Stadium, Cornell’s core four had truly reminded us at Commisso of why we love sports.  We live for the “storybook ending.”  We wait in bated breath for those cherished moments: the walk-off, the buzzer-beater, the overtime clincher.  Cornell’s leaders had given us that precious moment. Chodas, Goepel, Morgan, and Zagorski had thrilled us, one last time.

Without a doubt, they will be missed.

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