Upstate Update - Week 11
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 at Oneonta
Saturday, November 9
It is now dancing time in Upstate New York and the Red Dragons have had their dancing shoes and tuxedos fitted since Mid-October.
The Cardinals have had their best season under former stand-out Chris Taylor and were looking to upset Oneonta and participate in the “November Ball” for the first time since the Chris Waterbury era.
Oneonta entered the game as a tune up for the NCAA, knowing that regardless of the result they would be playing soccer next weekend and hoping to make a deep run in the National playoffs.
Plattsburgh are a team steeped in history and tradition and it would be no surprise to anyone to see them advance to the NCAA tournament by getting a win over their fellow SUNYAC powerhouse.
The Season Thus Far
Plattsburgh has had a rather up and down season but stood one win away from punching their ticket to yet another NCAA Tournament.
The Red Dragons are where the Red Dragons normally are, tuning up for yet another deep playoff run with dynamic attacking players up and down their roster. This year, however, they possess perhaps their most dangerous player in a generation and the most in-form player in the entire country, Whitman Hernandez.
First half was a cagey affair, as Coach Taylor had his men ready to play and successfully defended against the attack minded hosts. The half ended scoreless with Oneonta having the slight advantage in possession.
Once again it was the Whitman Hernandez show. The Senior placed his program on his back and got the breakthrough goal in the 54th minute to crown his team SUNYAC champions and send them to the “big dance” in style.
There is not much more praise that can be given to the Red Dragons of Oneonta. Their consistent excellence should not be taken for granted and should be appreciated by all.
With the win, the Red Dragons secured their 11th SUNYAC title and their 6th in this decade.
Oneonta has had tremendous success over the past decade with deep NCAA runs capped by a few appearances in the Final Four for their legendary Coach Iain Byrne.
They have yet to reach the pinnacle however, and this season represents a good opportunity to finally get over the hump. The team enters the tournament with a strong squad and a player in the form of his career. This could just be the year of the Dragon.
Around the Region
Clarkson 0, RPI 0 Clarkson advances 6-5 Penalties - The Golden Knights advance to the Liberty League Finals by sticking to a season long formula of suffocating defense and superior fitness. The Engineers hosted the Liberty League Final Four after emerging as well-deserved regular season champions. RPI were led all season long by some amazing rookies. Freshman Josh Gaudiano completed a historic season by being named Liberty League Rookie of the Year and MVP. Coach Adam Clinton also walked away with the coveted Coach of the Year honors and has been one of the best coaches in the region for almost two decades. Entering the Dance, RPI are a well balanced and well coached team. Unfortunately for the rest of the Liberty League and region, the Engineers will only get better in the seasons to come. For now, however, the focus is on making a deep run in the NCAAs and winning the team’s first National Championship.
Nazareth 1, Alfred 0 - Nazareth’s senior defender Dereck France was named the Tournament’s Outstanding Player after he scored a goal in the 59th minute to send his program to the NCAA tournament. The Empire 8 has been under the radar this year, but both finalists can be proud of a successful year while Nazareth will be pushing for even more triumphs and a deep tournament run.
Hobart 2, Clarkson 1 - One game at a time seems to have been the motto of the 2019 Statesmen. While early successes of Ithaca and RPI meant that Hobart received little ink early in the season, they were slowly building toward a spot in the league tournament final. To get there they defeated the very tough RIT Tiger team and faced the equally difficult Golden Knights team in the final who were eager to win their first Liberty League title. Hobart played like champions and recovered to secure a come from behind win after falling behind to Clarkson. Heartbreak for Clarkson who must now build towards next season after an amazing 2019 where they fell just short. Hobart meanwhile will enter the NCAA fearing no one and having the belief that they are equipped to bring a first title back to Cozzens field.
Team of the Week
Oneonta /Nazareth / Hobart / RPI Lets Dance!
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