Upstate Update - Week 10
By Mani Tafari
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
Plattsburgh State at Oneonta State
Saturday, November 4th
Only good teams play in November -- and only a great team can win the SUNYAC crown.
Over the past few seasons, the SUNYAC has become one of the best conferences in the entire country. Entering the conference tournament, the league was almost guaranteed to have at three teams dancing in the NCAA Championship. A fourth team, traditional powerhouse Plattsburgh State, who is led by the iconic Coach Waterbury, was sitting right on the bubble.
For Oneonta State, this final was a chance for the Red Dragons to enter the dance as SUNYAC champions for yet another season. For Plattsburgh State, it was a chance to guarantee a NCAA appearance after a very impressive season.
It was a great day for what both teams hoped would be the first of two championship games in 2017.
The Season Thus Far
Oneonta had what one might call a typical Red Dragon season. Lots of wins and dominance at home. One game that did stand out, however, was a loss to very strong Cortland State squad. Oneonta arrived at the final after cooling off a very hot Geneseo State.
Plattsburgh, meanwhile, had a very good year, and arrived at the final with an overall record of 13-6-1 while being especially dominant in out-of-conference play. The Cardinals defeated the conference favorite, Cortland State, 3-1, in the semifinals. The three goals that Plattsburgh scored in that game were the most given up by Cortland all season.
The most dominant teams of the past two decades would treat us to an intense and beautiful championship game.
After an evenly-played 21 minutes, SUNYAC Tournament MVP Witman Hernandez opened up the scoring for the Red Dragons, notching his 11th goal of the year. Oneonta took the one goal lead to the half time while outshooting Plattsburgh 8-7. The second half would prove to be even more exciting with Plattsburgh desperate to ensure their season would continue. Plattsburgh’s persistence paid off in the 51st minute, with a goal by Joe Gula which leveled the scores at 1-1. The game remained even until the 74th minute, when Oneonta freshman Roberto Ventura sealed the game -- and the conference tournament -- with a goal deserving of the honor. The freshman controlled the ball and carried it past midfield before hammering a rocket from 25 yards out that left the goalkeeper with no chance.
At the final whistle, it was joy for the Red Dragons yet again, as they look to go to another NCAA Tournament with – yet again -- genuine expectations of a deep post season run.
Unfortunately for Plattsburgh, an NCAA bid was not in the cards for 2017. It would seem that the Selection Committee could not look past four conference losses -- once again demonstrating the strength of the SUNYAC conference. Plattsburgh did itself proud, and are unfortunate to miss out on an invite. Yet things continue to look bright for this well-coached team with a great past and a promising future.
The Red Dragons continue to soar upward. This could be the year the program takes that final step and wins its first NCAA Division III title.
Oneonta won’t be alone, however, as it will be joined at the dance by fellow SUNYAC powerhouses Cortland and Buffalo State.
Around the Region
Hobart 2, Vassar 0 - In 2016, Hobart won the Liberty League regular season title. After falling in the League tournament and failing to get a bid to the NCAA, the Statesmen realized that, much like the popular vote, a regular-season title only offers emotional satisfaction. This year, despite a difficult start to the regular season, Hobart entered the conference tournament unbeaten in nine league games. The Statesmen took advantage of home support to dispatch the hottest team in the league, RIT, in the semi-final before beating a determined Vassar to secure the tournament title.
Stevens 2, St. John Fisher 0 - Stevens put all doubts to rest with a comprehensive victory over St. John Fisher on its home turf. The dancing Ducks are back, and will have their first opportunity to impress against NESCAC power Middlebury at the weekend.
Teams of the Week
Buffalo State and Cortland State
What happens when a tournament favorite is upset and has a chance to rest up and recuperate the week before the big tournament begins? Perhaps we should ask Tufts.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail us.