“Senior Day,” said Joe May, head coach of Plattsburgh State’s men’s lacrosse team. “Weather looks decent. A home game against an emerging rival. They are going to be fired up.”
The Cardinals (3-8, 2-1) suit up tomorrow at 1 p.m. against the College at Brockport (5-6, 3-1) at the Field House Soccer/Lacrosse Complex with a share of the lead in SUNYAC standings on the line.
The Saturday-afternoon contest will be PSUC’s first action since an April 11 victory at SUNY Potsdam.
“The break has been good,” said Michael Van Bommel, a junior defenseman. “We’re just coming in every day looking to get better. We know we’ve got a big game coming up, and if we take that one, we’re sitting pretty in the SUNYAC.”
Prior to the break, the Cards earned their first two victories in conference play. May felt going into the off week on a winning streak was good for the team.
“Coming off two wins, we were feeling good,” May said. “So the energy was high, but we were also humble in knowing that we did not play two perfect games. We focused on the things that we can improve on.”
May identified clearing the ball from the defensive zone, shooting at a higher percentage, faceoffs and invert defense as areas his team worked on during the week.
PSUC is prepared for a tough battle against the Golden Eagles, who are coming off a 10-8 win over conference-leading No. 16 SUNY Cortland last weekend.
“They’re going to play us tough,” May said. “We have to be ready for whatever they throw at us, but we really have to be ready to be the best version of us.”
Among the things, the Cards practiced in the latter part of their break was man-down defense, with an emphasis on scouting reports of Brockport’s previous games. Despite devoting practice time to this in order to give his players a “sense of ease,” May believes the specific plays are less important than being aware of the opponent’s strengths.
“Everyone has those guys that really make the engine purr,” May said. “Some teams have an excellent crease guy who works really hard, and when he catches it her puts it in the back of the net. Other teams have shooters. Other teams have excellent feeders that can throw skip passes twenty yards on somebody’s ear for a shot.”
May said that, because man-up units tend to be the same few plays, the defenders can focus on identifying and “neutralizing” their opponents’ strengths.
May named Brockport’s senior goalkeeper Dallas Meyers, senior faceoff specialist Michael Caternolo, and senior defenseman Steven Gurin as key players to watch for on the Golden Eagles’ roster.
Overall, PSUC’s players are confident that they know the keys to victory in this game.
“Honestly, it’s just playing with confidence and playing with pace,” said junior Stephen Kane. “We’ve just got to move the ball fast, keep our feet going and just play hard.”
After taking on Brockport Saturday, the Cards play SUNY Oneonta (4-7, 1-2) in their final home of the regular season Wednesday at 4 p.m.
The game has special meaning for several players, as it is what May describes as a “bragging-rights-all-summer-long kind of game” due to familiarity between the players.
“We recruit against each other a lot,” May said. “If you look at the rosters, there are a lot of the same high schools there. It’s very much a rivalry, in terms of the guys knowing their buddies on the other team.”
High schools represented on both rosters include Niskayuna, Miller Place, Sayville and Ward Melville.
In terms of on-the-field play, May is relishing the challenge of facing off against a Oneonta’s new coaching staff.
May acknowledged that Oneonta has a talented team, despite the Red Dragons’ record. While he does not yet know many specifics about what Oneonta’s coaches will bring to the game, May knows the general style of play to expect.
“They are an aggressive team,” May said. “They like to go to goal, and they play a style similar to Plattsburgh.”
May knows PSUC will have to execute well to get wins in either of the upcoming contests.
“It’s going to come down like the Potsdam game, where we just played tougher,” May said. “We executed the tougher plays, and that’s why we won. The game plan helped. Those 50/50 balls came up Plattsburgh.”
The Cards echoed their coaches recognition that Oneonta will present a challenging game and they will need to play well to earn the win
“It will be another dogfight,” Van Bommel said. “It’s a SUNYAC team. You can never count anyone out.”
For PSUC, these final two home games are another step toward a larger objective that is still within reach.
“Nothing is going to deter us from what our goal is,” Van Bommel said. “We just look to go out, do what we do, not worry about those guys and defend our title at the end of the day.”
Overall, the Cards are optimistic heading into the last regular-season home games.
“It is pretty high,” Kane said of the team’s confidence level. “We’ve been playing really f—ing good.”
Email Nathanael LePage at email@example.com