After a disappointing early exit from the 2016 SUNYAC tournament, the Plattsburgh State men’s soccer team is looking to get a bitter taste out of their mouths.

Head coach Chris Waterbury doesn’t want his team to dwell on the loss but instead use that memory to motivate the team moving forward.

“It was a very bitter way to end the season,” Waterbury said. “My hopes are that we learn from our mistakes and that the bitterness of that finish fuels us in a positive way.”

Improving on last season will involve tackling multiple obstacles along the way.

“To say it’s a new group is an understatement,” Waterbury said. “We’ve got people from all walks of life, from different states to different nationalities. The challenge is to mesh and get us all on the same page to be ready for the start of the season.”

If they can overcome these growing pains, there is a potential to be a competitive team. The Cardinals were picked fourth out of 10 teams in the 2017 SUNYAC Coaches’ Preseason poll, behind nationally-ranked Oneonta and Cortland, as well as Buffalo State.

While competitive play on the field is an important factor, Coach Waterbury has greater objectives for his team other than wins and losses.

“Our goal is to win a conference championship, advance to the NCAA tournament and go as far as we can,” Waterbury said. “With that said, I don’t want to focus at the end product. Our goal is the journey – the day-to-day trying to be the best we can be in all aspects of life: as a good citizen, as a conscientious student, and as a good athlete.”

As for how the team intends to approach its game on the field this season, Waterbury believes that the framework is in place, but there is still room for improvement and change.

“I think our style of play has been clearly defined,” Waterbury said. “I think our players have a mental concept of that. Have we completely figured it out? Probably not. Hopefully, it’s a work in progress and we make some mistakes and learn from them, and they’re not drastic enough to cost us games.”

Regarding the Cards’ keys to on-field success, Waterbury is focused on the fundamentals of the game. According to Waterbury, the keys to success are “keeping the ball out of our own net, and somebody’s got to find a scoring touch. ”

That second key to success may prove to be the most difficult challenge this year.

The Cardinals return without Senior All-American Alexis Archilla, who lead the team in both goals and assists in 2016.

“Over the years we’ve always had a true center forward,” Waterbury said about the team losing one of its main contributers. “This appears to be a team that’s going to be more scoring by committee.”

That view was reflected in the first game of the Potsdam College Cup on Sept. 1, as PSUC defeated The College of Mount Saint Vincent by an 8-0 score. The game featured five different goal scorers, lead by junior forward Austin Tetreault’s two goals and one assist.

The Cards followed up on Sept. 2 with a 3-1 victory over Baruch College. With two goals in each game, Junior Forward Chris Robertson ends the weekend as the team’s leading goal scorer.

PSUC opened its home schedule Sept. 5 with a 3-0 loss against Skidmore. After the game, Waterbury stated that the Cards needed to look at themselves to see what went wrong.

“Quite honestly, that’s a good team we played, but that was a pretty disappointing loss. We had several bad defensive breakdowns. We had a couple early early chances. Who knows what would have been different if we got the first goal, I don’t know. But that was disappointing. Quite honestly, we have to be better.”

The Cardinals begin their season with eight non-conference games. Coach Waterbury’s approach to these games is no different than any other game.

“Our philosophy is that every single game absolutely, positively matters,” Waterbury said. “They look at your entire schedule, the strength of your schedule, wins, losses, good losses, bad losses. We have some very difficult non-conference opponents, and the reason for that is that, in the event that we don’t win the conference, we need to try to rely on an at-large bid.”

This weekend, the Cards will look to rebound as they host three teams in the Best Western Plus Cardinal Classic Sept. 9 and 10. The tournament will feature games at noon and 2:30 p.m. each day. Waterbury wants to encourage the Plattsburgh Community to get out and support the team against stiff competition.

“It doesn’t get any easier this weekend,” Waterbury said. “Hopefully we can give them good soccer. It’ll be four good teams.”

PSUC will play Saturday at noon against a Mount Saint Mary team that finished 2016 with a record of 11-6-2. Sunday, the Cardinals will take on either Manhattanville or Johns Hopkins, who managed 2016 records of 11-7 and 12-3-3, respectively.

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