Friday, December 9, 2022

Women’s soccer searching for first conference win

By Liam Sample

The Plattsburgh women’s soccer team experienced an agonizing sports phenomenon: outplaying an opponent and losing. In its recent conference game against the Geneseo Knights, the Cardinals fell 1-0 in heartbreaking fashion. A goal at the 82-minute mark from junior Dana Schoeps at the Field House Soccer Complex put the Knights over the top in their first conference game Sept. 24. 

“That defines the game of soccer where you could dominate for 89 minutes and that 90th minute could go to the other team,” senior captain and goalkeeper Julia Ennis said. 

Geneseo, who was projected to finish first in the SUNYAC in their preseason poll, begins 4-3-1 and extends their win streak to three. Plattsburgh begins the conference season 0-2-1. 

The Cardinals’ SUNYAC schedule is front loaded in difficulty, with its first three opponents all qualifying for the playoffs last season. Junior defender Kayla Myers spoke of how starting by playing the “stronger teams” in the conference showed the Cardinals what it needs to work on. She added that in past years she felt the team peaked early on in the season and with this year’s schedule, it allows the team to improve as it progresses. 

Ennis started her second straight start for Plattsburgh after missing last weekend’s game against Cortland. Senior Angel Bennett appeared in net for Geneseo, the senior has appeared in every game this season and has a .77 goals allowed average. The senior was coming off two straight shutouts and needed to stay hot, as the Cardinal did not waste time pressuring the opponent. 

Plattsburgh started the game leading possession, after the 20 minute mark, the team registered three shots in less than five minutes.  

The starting offensive trio of graduate student Allison Seidman, graduate student Kirsten Villemaire, junior Avery Durgan, alongside graduate student midfielder Sam Spear, brought the energy early and finished the game with a combined 10 shots. Villemaire said the team knew what it had to do and played the best that it had all season. 

“For the first time this season, we started off strong,” Myers said. “In the locker room, we were talking about a new phrase that we are using: ‘Fight 90.’ Just making sure we fight the full 90 minutes of the game.”

The Cardinals, coming off a suffocating 2-1 loss in New Paltz, were able to deploy new offensive strategies. Due to the abundance of possession, Myers and counterpart junior defender Nora Fitzgerald were able to enter the offensive zone when the team held the ball to add an extra attacker. Myers added that Coach Frary has pushed them to get up more when the team is on offense and feels like making these types of runs will help make more offense going forward. 

Plattsburgh left the first half dominating in shots, leading 7-2, but not able to convert any of the chances. Geneseo struggled and despite the messy effort during the half, both teams were scoreless.

Heading into the second half, the game became a tale of back and forth sequences. Plattsburgh started hot in the first five minutes with two opportunities on shots by Spear and Villemaire. Soon after, Geneseo found their footing, responding in the next stretch with two shots and a corner kick by the 60-minute mark. 

On the defensive end, the backline played strongly and made big plays throughout the game. The Cardinals finished allowing eight shots to an opponent that averages 13 per game, letting Ennis see only five of these. 

“I think that if we play like that moving forward, it’s going to be really hard for teams to beat us. This Geneseo game, that’s the standard that we’re going to hold ourselves to now,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m very proud of the way we played.”

Ennis said that this defense is “one of the strongest back lines I have ever played with and seen in the conference.”

The teams were equal on possession for the remainder of the game, with Plattsburgh manufacturing a game-altering chance to try to take the lead before the 70-minute mark.

Five minutes after Fitzgerald nearly netted one from a shot outside the penalty arc, Plattsburgh’s deadly offensive trio landed subsequent passes, with Seidman starting the chance off. She sent the ball to Durgan, who made a quick touch pass that led Villemaire to near the sideline deep into Geneseo’s zone. 

By acting with speed, her teammates gave Villemaire time to get herself and the ball facing toward the net. She used her left foot to open a lane, where she took a low shot that got past three Knights. The ball bounced past Bennett and off the post towards the goalkeeper, where she quickly dove on it. Durgan was rushing at the net, but could not follow the bounce to stick the goal.

“I saw the lane to shoot, so I shot it far post because in soccer, far post is where the runners are usually. It skipped the defender and kind of skipped by the goalie too,” Villemaire said. “That was a really good chance that we could have idolized on, but we did not and I feel like that’s happened to us a lot this season.” 

With eight minutes remaining, the Knights scored the dagger. Schoeps lurked in the Cardinal’s end to put the pressure on to make a clear. Senior Nicole Kingsley made a pass backward that Schoeps took off after. She blocked the clear to create a one on one chance and found the right corner of the net for her first goal of the season. 

“I feel like our team has a very good way of supporting each other when goals happen and making it a team breakdown instead of pointing at an individual.” Myers said. 

Ennis emphasized how this goal does not define the entire game.

Despite fighting in the last minutes of play, Plattsburgh could not find the goal and dropped their second consecutive conference game. It went on to play SUNY Potsdam, where they lost 2-1 in a collapse during the final 15 minutes of the game to make their record 4-3-1 and a disappointing 0-3-1 in conference. The team goes on the road to Brockport to play the Golden Eagles Oct. 1 at 1 p.m.

“From an outside perspective, it could look a bit discouraging,” Ennis said, “We did just face a lot of our competition and probably the top three teams [in the conference] with us. From here on out, it’s going to be taking those lessons we just learned and progressing to hopefully see those teams again in the playoffs.”

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