The Plattsburgh State men’s soccer team finished off its slate of non-conference games this week, and now must prepare for a gruelling conference schedule ahead.
On Saturday, Sept. 16, the Cards defeated North Country neighbor Clarkson University by a score of 2-0. While they added the insurance goal late in the game off the foot of Senior Nicholas Laurent, it was the first-half tally by Senior Sean Maruscsak that proved the difference in the game.
Both Maruscsak and PSUC Head Coach Christopher Waterbury credited the near-post run by Junior midfielder Takashi Fukushima as the key element to the play.
With the ball along the end line, the Clarkson goalkeeper was up against the near post, allowing Fukushima to take away the keeper’s vision as the cross came in.
“It was a good finish by Maruscsak,” Waterbury said. “The cross was good, and the buildup to the cross was good. But more importantly, we’ve got to have that near-post runner.”
With Fukushima just returning from injury and working back into the squad, Waterbury is hoping that he will be able to contribute as the team looks to improve.
“He’s actually a pretty tricky player,” Waterbury said of Fukushima. “When he gets his timing back, I think he’s going to be good.”
On the defensive end of the field, Waterbury saw that his goalkeeper, Sophomore Patrick Feely, had a great game to earn the clean sheet, especially in coming off his line to gather the ball in air. Waterbury did, however, see room for improvement on the team defense.
“Clarkson put us under quite a few times.” Waterbury said. “We were fortunate that they never had a really dangerous shot.”
As the Cards finished off the game with a man advantage following a red card to Clarkson’s Brandon Bahr, Waterbury was also unimpressed by his team’s use of those 20 minutes.
“I didn’t like the way we finished the game out. Waterbury said. “We were up a man and they were pressing. We should have been able to keep the ball a little bit better and open the game up a little more. When you’re up 1-0, the last thing you want is to trade scoring chances.”
After the win against Clarkson, PSUC next hit the road to finish out their non-conference schedule with a challenging game at St. Lawrence University on Tuesday Sept. 19.
“St. Lawrence is probably the hardest venue to play at,” Waterbury said. “It’s an awkwardly large field. That makes it very difficult to play on, especially with the fact that it’s grass. We’re literally the only SUNY school that doesn’t have a grass option to practice on.”
The Cards would go on to beat St. Lawrence 3-1 in Tuesday’s game, marking the first time that they have beaten St. Lawrence since 2008.
With the non-conference slate coming to a close, the next thing on the agenda for the Cards is a conference opener against the Bears of SUNY Potsdam. Maruscsak and Waterbury both expect an exciting match against a “cross-town rival” in the game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23.
“It’s a war,” Waterbury said. “They circle us every year. It’s a derby, a North Country rivalry. That makes their season if they can beat us.”
The game against Potsdam kicks off a difficult conference schedule for the Cards. Both Maruscsak and Waterbury are looking forward to the challenge that this part of the season brings.
“It definitely picks up from here,” Maruscsak said. “Every game that’s a conference game is a battle. From the top of the table to the bottom, anybody can beat anybody on any given day.”
“It’s like a second season,” Waterbury said. “We’re trying to play good non-conference games to prepare us for that.”
Despite the added challenges of quick turnarounds and less recovery time, Maruscsak is not worried about PSUC’s chances in the SUNYAC Conference.
“Everybody from the first man on the field to the last man on the bench is hungry and ready to go,” Maruscsak said. “As long as we stay with the game plan that our coach puts in front of us at the beginning of the game, we have a chance to beat any team in the nation.”
If the team is to rely on every player on the roster, that will need to include the team’s seven freshmen. With the non-conference schedule closing, freshman midfielder KyAir Hamilton believes that he and the other rookies have settled in well with the team.
“I think we’re doing pretty good,” Hamilton said. “We respect the other guys, and we fit right in perfectly.”
One element that may have helped this freshman class to adapt is familiarity. Five of the seven rookies on the team come from Saratoga and Schenectady Counties in New York’s Capital District. The other two hail from Westchester County.
While Hamilton said that the regional makeup of the freshman class was a coincidence, he was not afraid to admit that one of those connections helped with his decision to attend SUNY Plattsburgh.
“My friend, Kyle Pfaff, is a sophomore,” Hamilton said. “He pushed me to go towards Plattsburgh. But I like this school. It’s not too big, but not to small. You meet new people every day.”
For PSUC as a whole, Waterbury is seeing growth ahead of a challenging conference schedule.
“I still think we can do things better,” Waterbury said. “But I also think we’re doing things better than a week ago.”
Email sports at firstname.lastname@example.org