The SUNY Plattsburgh men’s soccer team’s journey for the SUNYAC championship fell short after a 1-0 loss to No. 10 SUNY Oneonta in the final round.
The Cardinals previously beat Buffalo State 2-0 at home Nov. 6 in the semifinals to advance to the championship game.
Plattsburgh State traveled to Oneonta last Saturday to take on the Red Dragons and senior forward Witman Hernandez, who finished the season tied for second place in goals scored with 23 in NCAA Division III men’s soccer.
The championship game was the first time the two teams played each other since their last outing Oct. 26. Oneonta beat the Cards 3-0 to hand SUNY Plattsburgh its second conference loss of the season and break its seven-game win streak.
Heading into the game, the Cards were missing senior defender Joe Gula to injury and senior forward Chris Robertson, the team’s leading scorer, to suspension after his eighth yellow card against Buffalo State in the semifinals.
“Especially as a senior, going into this championship game and not being able to play what could possibly be your last game, it hurt,” Robertson said. “Especially to see them out there and thinking you could help the team, so it was definitely hard to watch”
It was a goal by Hernandez in the 53rd minute that ultimately ended Plattsburgh State’s season.
Head coach Chris Taylor said the game came down to who seized the big moment.
“We had two really big chances that could change the course of the game, but we missed them,” Taylor said. “Oneonta, I think, is at a later stage in their development as a team than we are.”
After the championship loss, SUNY Plattsburgh waited to see if it qualified for the NCAA tournament. On Monday, the bracket was released and the Cards realized their season was over.
“All of them have given so much to the sport, to their careers. That moment when it’s over, it hits you right in the chest,” Taylor said. “You don’t know what you’re going to feel until it happens. They’ve got a lot to be proud of, but it’s still sad that it’s over for them.”
Robertson feared that the semifinal game against Buffalo would be his last game, and it came true after last Saturday’s game.
“Once the game actually ended, it all kind of hit me. It’s over,” Robertson said. “It was hard, but we had a really good season.”
Taylor said he’ll miss this team’s journey.
“That’s the hardest part, especially as coaches. I wasn’t disappointed by the results or the performance. I was dissapointed we don’t get to train on Monday,” Taylor said. “I was certainly enjoying watching the ride the players were taking us on and watching them grow and unite as a team. I was loving every second of that.”
Taylor said this season has been one of the most enjoyable ones he’s been a part of in any capacity.
“It’s been crazy. When we were losing, we weren’t as bad as people thought we were, and when we were winning, we probably weren’t as good as people thought we were. I think the season was enjoyable because of the growth,” he said. “At 2-5, a lot of people have written us off. I think we’d even written ourselves off a little bit, but the players haven’t. The players decided, certainly certain players decided, that this wasn’t going to be how it played out.”
The lasting legacy of this season’s team was its resiliency, Talyor said.
“Over the coming years with future teams, we’re gonna talk about this year when we’re in some good situations, when we’re in some bad situations, and we’ll know we can always make something out of nothing.”