October 19, 2011

A SUNYAC Tale: The Times They are a Changing

Front page photo: Freshman keeper Tim Beauvais of Cortland State. Photo by Cortland Athletics.

By ManI Tafari

The SUNYAC season has been filled with excitement and surprises, and while nothing new in this action driven league, 2011 has brought a few changes to the traditional line-up of the top teams.

Da Bears

The conference has its usual line up of Regional powers who are almost guaranteed to make the six team playoff this season; Plattsburgh, Fredonia, Geneseo and Brockport.  Yet this year, new head coach Adam Parker has put his Potsdam Golden Bears in the thick of SUNYAC conversation by clinching a playoff spot with two matches to spare.  Unfortunately for Parker’s men, their regular season performance will negatively impact their ability to sneak up on adversaries come Tourney time.

Brockport sophomore Chris O'Gorman had a goal against SUNYAC foe Oswego  Photo by Chris Cesere of Rochester CC Photography

In the previous two seasons, Potsdam State has won just two conference matches while losing 16 in a tough and unforgiving conference.  In September, a hard fought scoreless draw with rival Plattsburgh sent a message that this year things would be different. Three more wins against typical conference foes has Potsdam thinking upset with nothing to lose and only a reputation to gain.

A Flight to Quality?

Head coach Chris Waterbury has had his Plattsburgh Cardinals flying high for almost three decades. A 2005 Final Four appearance shows that after almost 400 wins at the collegiate level, this coach has not lost his touch.  A 5-0 away loss to in-form Oneonta shows that Plattsburgh still has some work to do in order to be ready for a playoff push. The loss to Oneonta represented the worse loss in 26 years. However, back to back wins against Buffalo State and Fredonia has Plattsburgh clinging to the sixth and final SUNYAC tournament spot, and is proof that the Cardinals are on their way to righting the ship. Other contenders for the SUNYAC crown will not take anything for granted when facing the the 2010 Tournament Champions.

Seeking Redemption

Perhaps one of the most underrated teams in the country, Oneonta State has not lost a match since the first week of the season. At 10-2-2, and 6-0-1 in SUNYAC play, Oneonta is playing inspired soccer. The team returned all 11 starters from a squad that lost an automatic NCAA berth at the penalty spot to Plattsburgh in 2010. Despite an earlier win against their major SUNYAC foe, Oneonta will not be satisfied until they win both the league and SUNYAC Tournament titles. The team is built on solid defense and a potent attack. This strong strike force has them outscoring conference opponents by an 18-4 margin. With two more road matches remaining, Oneonta must fight off Brockport State  9-3-1 and 6-1-0 in order to capture the top seed in the conference.

Blue Devil Enigma

Fredonia State is back in the SUNYAC Tournament after missing post season play two of the past three years. At 11-5-0 and 4-3-0, the Blue Devils will be looking for a strong tournament showing to increase its chances of dancing in the NCAA post-season. An earlier 4-1 loss to a dominating Plattsburgh team can be overcome with strong performances against regional powerhouses Oneonta and No. 11 Hobart.

Take Away

Strong seasons so far by No. 3 St. Lawrence at 13-0-0, and Hobart at 13-2-0 means that a Pool C bid is not a guarantee for the SUNYAC runners up (as Oneonta is well aware).  This fact means that the Tournament title could possibly be the only admission ticket to the NCAA post-season.

Plattsburgh took the crown last year with two shootout victories. No doubt Oneonta will be looking to erase that possibility with a continuation of their consistent, attack-oriented style of play. And everyone else will have to beat that or it will be a post-season from the sidelines.

The Tournament

The men's SUNYAC conference tournament will be made up of six teams and kicks off the last Saturday of October. The top two seeds receive first-round byes, and the highest seed hosts throughout the tournament.

The two quarterfinal games will be played on Saturday, Oct. 29 with the lower seeds traveling to the higher seeds: No. 6 will play at No. 3; No. 5 will play at No. 4.  On Wednesday, Nov. 2, the winner of the 4v5 seed match will play at the top seed, while the 3v6 winner will play at the No. 2 seed. The SUNYAC Championship match will be played on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 at the highest remaining seed.


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