Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Cards start unbeaten, showcase new roster

Junior midfielder John Hayes (11) celebrates his goal against the Clarkson Golden Knights at home Sept. 1 with Modou Badje (10), a junior wing and transfer from SUNY Ulster.

Collin Bolebruch

First-year wing Connor Howe evades a Clarkson opponent at the Field House Soccer Complex Sept. 1.

By Collin Bolebruch

Chris Taylor, Plattsburgh Cardinals head men’s soccer coach, used the term “retooled” — not “rebuilt” — to describe the 2023 Cards.

The squad was dealt a difficult hand last summer when it lost 10 total members, including five goal-scorers, to graduation or the transfer portal.

Departing players included six veterans from the team’s 2019 SUNYAC Championship appearance: Andrew Braverman, Jimmy Alexander, Cole Weiner, Alex Graci, Joseph Ditillo and Rocky Bujaj. 

Only Christian Garner remains from that run. With this class departing, the team lost stability.

“Those guys have been here a long time,” Taylor said. “Probably because of the COVID year as well, that period felt like a really long period.”

This is the first time Taylor has coached a Cardinals team completely recruited by himself and his staff.

For Taylor, the goal is to remain competitive. That’s advice he got from his head coach at Plattsburgh, and the man he would succeed, Chris Waterbury. 

The 2022 Cardinals secured a playoff spot in the final game of the season, eventually winning its first playoff game since the 2019 tournament run. To recapture that success, Taylor knew the team had to add talent.

The 2023 Cardinals welcome 13 new players to its roster: defenders Cristian Janosel, Jake McGowan and Brandon Juandoo; midfielders Santiago Vargas, Cesar Calderon, Michael Rodriguez and Brendan McGlinchey; wings Tristan Laundree, Mo Badjie, Connor Howe and Maximus Pericic; and forwards Bradyn Primus and Xavier Kamba. Badjie is a transfer from SUNY Ulster, Vargas comes from Division II Queen’s College and Pericic from Molloy College.

Taylor got what he wanted in this group — speed as well as dynamic and exciting players. He wanted to make the attack more transitional. There won’t be an adjustment period.

“I think we can compete with this group. I think the attack has improved. There’s a lot of stability in other positions in the midfield and the back line, but the frontline is young. The attacking positions are young,” Taylor said. “I think that’s the easiest position to adjust to in the college game.”

The newcomers are already making an impact. Three of the team’s six goal scorers are rookies, in Kamba, Laundree and Madjie. Kamba leads the team in assists with three, being the only player with more than one.

Seniors Dylan Shalvey and Jack Healy will officially be wearing the armbands as team captains, but leadership this season will come from a committee of players including Shalvey, Healy, senior Frankie Palumbo and juniors Teddy Healy, John Hayes and Brian Coughlan.

“All the older guys are really nice off the field. On the field they offer a lot of insight into the college level,” Kamba said. “They know when to push us, and push us to be better players.”

Healy has been the team’s primary goalkeeper for the past two seasons, logging a record of 15-15-3 and a career best .752 save percentage in 2022. Coughlan and Hayes were the Cardinals’ top two scorers last season, notching 26 and 12 points respectively.

“It’s an interesting dynamic when your biggest contributors at times are underclassmen, because sometimes leadership comes from impact on the field. It’s hard to lead when you’re young,” Taylor said. “We finally have our biggest talents in leadership positions.”

The team will carry three goalkeepers on its roster this season, including Teddy Healy, Aiden Jaremczuk and Marcial Vasquez. Defenders include Jack Healy, Garner, Janosel, McGowan, Juandoo, Justin Siegel, Matthew Pitarresi and Tony Kochelev.

Rostered midfielders are Hayes, Shalvey, Palumbo, Vargas, Calderon, Rodriguez, McGlinchey, Colter Cheney-Seymour, Mariano Marra and Danny Perry. Running the wing will be Badjie, Howe, Pericic, Laundree and Kevin Abbondanza. Rounding out the roster at forward are Coughlan, Primus and Kamba.

Geoff Spear will return for his 28th season as assistant coach, while also continuing his work with the women’s team. Brett Rotz will also return as team manager.

For the first time since 2018, Taylor’s first season, the Cardinals will welcome a third full-time assistant coach in Anna McDuffie. McDuffie finished her career as a Cardinal last season, competing for the women’s team.

Taylor, as coordinator of the athletic coaching minor in the exercise and nutrition department, grew impressed with McDuffie’s sideline abilities in class. After discussions with Head Women’s Soccer Coach Whitney Frary, McDuffie was hired to work with both teams.

The 2023 Cardinals haven’t missed a beat. Plattsburgh is undefeated at 3-0-1 through its first four games—it beat the Clarkson Golden Knights 3-2 on Sept. 1; the Utica Pioneers 3-0 on Sept. 3; tied the RPI Engineers 0-0 on Sept. 9; and beat the Russell Sage Gators 3-1 on Sept. 12.

Plattsburgh plays the recently-rebranded Union Garnet Chargers (2-2-1) at home tomorrow, Sept. 16, in its final game before conference play begins.

The Cardinals will open its SUNYAC schedule playing the Potsdam Bears (3-0-1) at home Sept. 20. Other notable games on the schedule include the SUNYAC runner-up Brockport Golden Eagles (2-2-1) in Brockport Sept. 23, the reigning SUNYAC champion Oneonta Red Dragons (4-0-0) in Oneonta Oct. 18 and the Buffalo State Bengals (3-0-1) in Plattsburgh Oct. 14 for Senior Day.

“I do think we’re going to be a lot better this year in the SUNYAC. I think it just comes with experience,” Teddy Healy said. “I think the more and more we play, it’s going to be more experience for everyone.”

 

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