The SUNY Plattsburgh men’s soccer team recorded its eighth shutout of the season against the third-seeded Buffalo State Bengals Wednesday to advance to the SUNYAC championship.
Junior goalkeeper Patrick Feeley recorded seven saves in the 2-0 semifinal win at the Field House Soccer/Lacrosse Complex. Teammates Luke Rapaport and Chris Robertson scored the two goals for the second-seeded Cardinals within the final 15 minutes of the game.
Wednesday’s game was a rematch from earlier this season where Plattsburgh State lost to Buffalo 2-1 at the Field House Sept. 28.
Head coach Chris Taylor said the Cards didn’t give much thought to their loss against the Bengals earlier this season.
“We actually talked about it before the game. This isn’t a revenge match,” Taylor said. “It’s none of that. It’s playoffs. New season, new game.”
Rapaport said the team looked inward as it prepared for Buffalo State.
“It was really focusing on us, not worrying about who we were playing but just focusing on our game,” he said.
The 11 days in between games also contributed to the team’s win, Rapaport said.
“It gave us a little time off, which is nice for the body,” he said, “and it allowed us to mentally prepare and get ready for this upcoming game.”
The first half was scoreless for both sides with a total of 10 shots attempted between the two teams. Buffalo State followed up its first half with 10 more shots, while SUNY Plattsburgh attempted six and connected on two.
The Cards’ gameplan was to make Buffalo State uncomfortable by applying a lot of pressure, and Taylor thought his team did well in the first half, but the Bengals adjusted in the second half.
“We were under pressure. They played out of a lot of good things,” Taylor said. “Our presses weren’t quite what we wanted them to be; there were a few too many big gaps.”
Feeley recorded five of his saves in the second half. Taylor credits the Cards’ defense for giving the team chances to come out on top.
“Our goalkeeper kept us in it. Our center backs kept us in it, and then obviously we got some big goals,” Taylor said.
Taylor also said defense has been the key to SUNY Plattsburgh’s success this season.
“You look at our season and all three of our goalkeepers have a clean sheet. Pat has been tremendous when called. Ryan was tremendous until he got injured. James is exemplary as a back-up goalkeeper, best teammate you could ask for,” he said. “Those guys have been the story of our season.”
Rapaport, a junior defender on the team, said the Cards’ defense has come a long way since the beginning of the season.
“In the beginning, we were definitely shaky,” Rapaport said. “We’ve come together as a team. We started to learn what each person does, where people move, how to cover for each other. The communication was great today.”
The SUNYAC No.1 seed and 10th ranked team in the NCAA Division III coaches poll, Oneonta, will host Plattsburgh State in the SUNYAC championship game tomorrow at 1 p.m.
Oneonta advanced to the championship round after beating Cortland 2-0. The Red Dragons also finished its conference schedule 8-1 and beat the Cards 3-0 to close the regular season.
Taylor thinks Oneonta will be a challenge, but one his team can handle.
“They’re a great team, but we’ve shown we’re a tough team to play against. It’ll be a great match,” he said.