The Plattsburgh State men’s soccer team heads into its final regular-season home weekend looking for wins after splitting games last weekend at Oswego and Cortland.
The Cardinals (5-5-2, 3-2-0) will host SUNY Oneonta (7-3-3, 4-1-1) Friday at 3 p.m. before honoring their seniors in a matchup against SUNY New Paltz (8-4-1, 3-2-1) Saturday at 1 p.m.
Head coach Chris Taylor knows the Friday match against Oneonta will be a challenge for PSUC, as they currently sit in second place in the SUNYAC standings.
“They’re a fantastic team,” Taylor said. “They’ve been the ‘gold standard’ in the league, in terms of their NCAA achievements but Plattsburgh has always been able to give them a bit of trouble.”
The Friday game will hold special significance for sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Wilson, who played his freshman season at Oneonta in 2016 before joining the Cards.
“They’re probably going to want to score on me pretty badly,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be a fun day.”
The homecoming-weekend match will also be important for the program’s alumni, as they honor 33-year head coach Chris Waterbury. Friday evening, Waterbury will be inducted into the Plattsburgh State Athletic Hall of Fame.
“It’s a special weekend for him,” Taylor said. “We’re proud and excited to see him go into the Hall of Fame. We’ve definitely got some of the old boys coming to support the team.”
While Taylor has taken over the coaching position this season, this year’s team was largely built by Waterbury, and he is still an influential figure in the program.
“I think a lot of the guys still look to him for approval, because he’s been a father figure for them,” Taylor said.
After Oneonta, PSUC will have less than 24 hours to prepare for the New Paltz Hawks, whose success this season has been highlighted by a 5-1 victory over Cortland.
The Cards will take the field Saturday knowing the importance of getting a win against an opponent so close to them in the standings.
“We feel that we need to win not only for our own points, but to deny them points as well,” Taylor said. “These are almost six-point games.”
Before kickoff Saturday, PSUC will honor its six seniors in their final regular-season SUNYAC home game.
The Cards enter this weekend fifth in the SUNYAC standings, courtesy of a weekend split in Central New York.
Friday, the Cards got a third consecutive conference win, 2-1 at SUNY Oswego (4-6-1, 1-4-0). Senior defender Amani Francois’s first goal of the season came shortly before halftime.
“The goalie came out, but completely missed it, so I jumped,” Francois said. “My eyes were closed, but when I looked, the ball was in the back of the net.”
While Francois got the credit for the goal, Taylor’s praise was for sophomore midfielder Cameron Richards, who provided the assist.
“We had a good delivery off a corner for what feels like the first time all season,” Taylor.
PSUC entered halftime feeling good about the scoreline, but the Lakers found the equalizer early in the second stanza.
“It was one of the best goals I’ve seen,” Taylor said. “It was a 25-yard strike off the kid’s left foot into the top corner. To beat Ryan [Wilson], you’ve got to have a pretty special finish.”
About a minute later, the Cards had what Taylor described as “the easiest chance of the game,” but they failed to capitalize.
“When that happened, I questioned whether the team had it in them to go on and win the game,” Taylor said. “But the boys did.”
Taylor credited senior forwards Chris Robertson and Alex Price for their efforts to create offense, but said the balance tipped when senior Taka Fukushima and freshman Alex Alejo joined the central midfield.
“We were fighting for control of the game,” Taylor said. “Taka and Alex, although two of the smaller guys, brought some real physicality.”
Junior forward Jimmy Marchena scored the game-winner.
Following the win on the shore of Lake Ontario, PSUC faced the daunting trip to No. 9 SUNY Cortland (10-1-2, 4-1-0).
The Cards came out on the losing end of a 2-0 decision, but Taylor was impressed with what he saw against a Cortland team that features several transfers from top Division I programs.
“We very organized defensively,” Taylor said. “Our back four had an extremely strong first half and really limited Cortland’s unbelievable attacking players.”
Taylor did think back on some of PSUC’s opportunities in the half that didn’t turn into shots.
“We got in the areas to create chances, but we didn’t have the quality to actually create them,” Taylor said.
After the half, the back-and-forth continued until Migell Ormsby’s goal from distance put the Red Dragons ahead.
“There was a lapse of concentration on our part, where we were a little bit naive, and a moment of quality on their part,” Taylor said.
That naivete manifested in the team’s protests to the match official for an apparent infraction, which allowed Ormsby the time and space to score the goal.
“It was pretty obvious that it was a handball, but it didn’t get called back,” Wilson said. “You can’t always look for the refs to save the day like that.”
In hindsight, the Cards are aware that they should have handled the situation better.
“We can’t blame the refs,” Francois said. “It’s on us; we’ve got to play until the whistle is blown.”
Taylor hopes PSUC can learn from the goal.
“You can’t do that against top-level opposition,” Taylor said. “That’s a lesson for us. We’ll hopefully see Cortland again in the postseason, and we can’t stop for two or three seconds.”
A second goal by Ormsby late in the contest, when the Cards were pushing up the field in search of an equalizer, sealed the game.
A win at Cortland would have seen PSUC take third in the SUNYAC standings. With four conference matches remaining, the fifth-place Cards will aim to get every point available this weekend.
The team knows that won’t be easy.
“We’re expecting to see a fight,” Francois said. “I’m ready for it, and I think the team is prepared for it.”