Upstate Update - Conference Playoff Edition
By D3soccer.com contributor
The Upstate Update brings you up to speed on Division III men's soccer in the "Upstate" New York region, home to the SUNYAC, Liberty League, and Empire 8. Several key matches will be recapped each week along with a more in-depth look at a Game of the Week.
Game of the Week
Vassar at RPI - Wednesday, November 5
Two of the top teams in the Liberty League and East region met in a win-or-go-home conference semi-final. Both teams entered with the knowledge that a conference final appearance might not necessarily buy a ticket to the dance but a loss would expedite the plans for 2015.
The Season Thus Far
The teams that are still playing soccer have all had to beat tough competition to get to this point. Vassar’s seniors recall their freshman season when they entered the tournament as the four-seed and left as champions while taking the program to its first NCAA appearance in twelve years. Unfortunately for the Brewers a sixth loss this season would all but doom their hopes of dancing. RPI meanwhile entered the game with a regional ranking and a chance to impress the selection committee with a good win over a decent Vassar squad.
An evenly played game entered the half scoreless. Both teams were very impressive on the defensive end while trying to take control of the midfield. The second half started out with RPI proving why they are known as a second half team. Junior Natahniel Gunderson struck twice and senior top scorer Matt Koziol hit a wonderful 22-yard free kick to put the Engineers up by a 3-0 score. Vassar would get a consolation goal in the 90th minute, but that would be too little, and much too late, for the men from Poughkeepsie.
RPI (12-3-3) might have done enough to earn an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament, if needed, but first the 2012 tournament champions will look to win their second title in three years and an automatic bid when challenge St. Lawrence in the conference final on Saturday. Vassar (11-6-2) will be back next year and they will be good. The Brewers have proven themselves an elite team in the league, and with young talent and great coaching they should be in the hunt again.
Around the Region
St. Lawrence 1, Hobart 0 (2OT) - Defending Liberty League regular season and tournament champion St. Lawrence faced a Hobart team riding a 8-game unbeaten streak; something would have to give. Hobart, the 2009 league champion, had uncharacteristically missed the league and NCAA tournaments the past two seasons meaning their seniors were last involved in post season play as freshmen when the second seeded Statesmen were upset by a tough RIT in their league semifinal. Hobart began this season looking to right the ship and return to its rightful place as a top team in the region. A win for Hobart would put them in a position to play for a NCAA berth; a loss would certainly mean an end to the season.
St. Lawrence on the other hand were playing for the opportunity to host a first and second round pod in the NCAA tournament on their beloved Sandy Macallaster field. Earlier in the year the Saints won a hard fought 3-1 result over the Statesmen who have since made a few tactical and personnel changes to be prepared for the challenge of a re-match.
The Saints dominated possession throughout the contest, while Hobart played solid defense and looked to strike on the counter attack. This instant classic would end in double-overtime when SLU’s leading scorer, sophomore Rob Brandell finished off a perfect pass from senior captain Mark Provost four minutes shy of the dreaded penalties.
The Saints, now 15-2-1, will move on to host the tournament final against RPI on Saturday. Hobart (12-5-3) can be very proud of a well-played season and have reason for optimism with several promising young players on the roster.
Oneonta State 4, Geneseo State 0 - The Oneonta State (17-0-2) train keeps on rolling: destination Final Four. Geneseo State (11-8-2) played a good season and produced decent football and some solid wins. No shame in having one’s season end at the hands of a quality team.
Cortland State 1, Brockport State 0 (OT) - Cortland State (14-3-1) moves on and has probably guaranteed itself a spot at the dance. It has turned into a great year by a team many had written off after a two-loss opening weekend. And now the team that held Oneonta State to a tie earlier this year will have an opportunity to do one better in the conference final. On the other hand, Brockport State (10-3-6), who has played a dozen overtime games, is still alive for an at-large berth, but they are very much at the mercy of the selection committee.
Empire 8 - The Empire 8 heats up in a couple days with Stevens hosting their tournament which includes Ithaca, Alfred and Utica. An invite to the NCAA Tournament will only be reserved for the champion in a conference that has had a sub-par year. It’s been a while since Stevens actually had that much on the line in the conference playoffs.
Teams of the Week
Cortland State and RPI