The Plattsburgh State men’s soccer team’s season has ended, and with it, an era.
Four days after losing in the SUNYAC finals, longtime head coach Chris Waterbury retired after 33 years.
““I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have been a part of such a great university and soccer program,” Waterbury said to the PSUC athletic website. “To all the assistant coaches over the years who have helped to contribute to our success, I can’t thank you enough. Most importantly to all the players that have come through our program, the tremendous character, and the characters, I can’t thank you enough. The relationships and friendships are such an important part of my life. Thank you, Plattsburgh.”
The Cardinals were defeated 2-1 by the Oneonta Red Dragons for the SUNYAC championship.
PSUC was victorious in the previous four matches. In those matchups, the Cards defense only allowed two goals while scoring 10 of their own.
They had a chance to get revenge for a loss against Oneonta earlier in the season, and give the difficult season a storybook ending.
The match was tight for the first 20 minutes until the Red Dragons drew first blood.
In the 21st minute, Oneonta sophomore Witman Hernandez scored the first goal in the championship match, marking the first time in four games that the Cards were trailing.
“It was very nerve racking,” sophomore forward Kyle Pfaff said. “You don’t want to come all this way to lose. When I️ came onto the field we were already down 1-0 which only made it more stressful for me.”
The deficit took a toll on the physique of the team and injuries played a part in that physique being disrupted.
“On top of that I was wearing a knee brace which was uncomfortable for me so I could never really find my comfort zone out on the field,” Pfaff said.
The Cards had to respond immediately before it was over for their season. The game was a defensive stalemate for 33 minutes after the first goal before PSUC finally answered back.
Sophomore defender Joe Gula scored a header that evened up the match at 1-1, making it a brand new game.
“Anytime you get a chance to play for a championship in front of that many people, its a good time,”Gula said. “As an athlete, those are the moments you practice for.”
The Cards got a shot of energy thanks to Gula, but needed to build on it to get the win.
In the 63rd minute, Oneonta’s Roberto Ventura legged one from 25 yards out into the far right corner of the net. It was the final blow to a hard fought game for the Cards, leaving the story of a championship unfinished.
“It stung, and to be honest I’m still not over it,” Pfaff said. “But I know I️ will be using this as fuel to the fire and have this in the back of my mind whenever I’m at the gym or out training.”
With Waterbury’s retirement, there will still be some question marks coming out of this season. The players, though, plan to take what they learned this year and use it to push that much harder.
“I learned a lot of little things throughout the year which helped improve my game,” Pfaff said. “Next year we definitely need in my opinion a new play style which will fit in with a lot of the teams strengths. Our current one I️ feel as if had some flaws.”
The Cards coaching staff will look to adjust their game plan to the talent around them. This is a young team and getting that championship experience will elevate their game.
It will be a long off season ahead, but Gula has his eyes already set on a goal for next season.
Email John Peralta at firstname.lastname@example.org