Shining Star

Gene Ventriglia was skeptical when he first received a video of fourth-year Mateo Cordini playing. The video was one of many the head coach of the Men’s Soccer team gets from foreign students, and he hadn’t originally believed that the one from Argentina native Cordini would be any different.

Now, Ventriglia said, he isn’t sure where the team would be without the forward.

“I get a lot of interest from foreign students who want to play and when you’re a coach, you always have to wonder if they’re going to adjust,” Ventriglia said. “But coming here, he’s been nothing short of outstanding. I don’t know what we’d look like right now without him.”

Though only a SUNY New Paltz student for a mere several weeks, Cordini has made a name for himself not just at New Paltz, but in the SUNYAC as well. He currently leads the Hawks in goals with eight and is second among all SUNYAC players in goals scored in conference play.

For the breakout star, soccer has been a constant his entire life and has been with him as long as he can remember.

“I’ve been playing since I have memory,” Cordini said. “In my country, soccer football is the main sport. Everyone when they are little one of the first presents they have is a soccer ball.”

Cordini originally applied to New Paltz to study abroad and further study business, but was immediately interested in playing when he saw New Paltz had a team.

“When I applied for exchange program, I saw they had a soccer team and I sent an email to coach and he was very open-minded with me,” Cordini said. “I sent him some games of me playing and he said I was on the team.”

Cordini said when he first came to New Paltz, he was out of shape compared to other players on the team.  He said the difference in attitude and physicality at home and in the United States is substantial.

“I notice here that they put pressure on themselves, they play a lot, they train a lot and it’s a very different environment,” Cordini said. “In Argentina I was used to being one of the fastest on my team, but coming here I saw that everyone is so physical and fast and that’s been a big difference.”

Despite this difference in play and his expectations, Ventriglia said Cordini made a smooth transition to the lineup. He said Cordini is the type of player someone could tell has “a sense of experience.”

“The transition was very short for him,” Ventriglia said. “He’s very good on the ball, very smart. He’s so good at protecting the ball. He’s a player with a lot of passion, and you can tell that for him, it’s more about having fun than everything else.”

Most recently, Cordini stunned his teammates and the New Paltz community with his double overtime game-winning bicycle kick goal against SUNYAC rival Oswego on Sept. 22. The goal came off a cross from fourth-year midfielder Shanshe Khoroshvili, and Cordini sent it in past Oswego’s goalkeeper at the 102 minute mark.

Cordini said a similar play had happened five minutes before the momentous goal, and he knew that Khoroshvili was going to try it once more. With that in mind, Cordini took the shot and made it in the goal to give the Hawks the win.

Ventriglia said the goal was one of the best he’s seen in his 25 year-plus coaching career, and was something he wasn’t sure other players he’s coached could do.

“He was able to immediately read the play and know what he was going to do,” Ventriglia said. “He could have missed it, but he took the chance and didn’t hesitate. There’s a fear of failure in college sports and I don’t think anyone else on my team could have done what he did.”

Impressive numbers and highlight reel-worthy plays are enough to please any athlete, but Cordini said the thing that makes him happiest is the support he gets from his friends and teammates.

“The support that is here from my Argentinian friends and my Spanish friends who are at my games is very meaningful to me,” Cordini said. “When you’re playing outside and you see they’re there to watch you, I think that’s the greatest feeling in the world.”


Cat Tacopina