By Liam Sample
The Plattsburgh Cardinals women’s soccer team (8-5-1) continued to climb out of the poor start to the conference season last weekend. Its deadly duo of graduate students Allison Seidman and Kirsten Villemaire stayed hot, as they continued to offensively punish other teams in the SUNYAC Conference.
The Cardinals started conference play 0-3-1, which has turned the remaining games on the SUNYAC schedule into must wins. After going on the road to beat Brockport 2-0 Oct. 1 for its first conference win, a game where Seidman scored both goals, the team returned home to take on the rival Oswego State Lakers (7-4-2) Oct. 8. Oswego sat above Plattsburgh in the conference standings, which made the three points earned with a win crucial for both sides.
“We came in knowing what we had to do. I mean every game’s kind of like a championship game at this point,” Villemaire said. She was later named SUNYAC Offensive Player of the Week.
Plattsburgh started the game with different personnel on the field. Junior Nora Fitzgerald was moved to offense, her first time playing up top in her collegiate career, while junior Zoe Rice played on the defensive wing. Rice was making her first collegiate start after getting inconsistent time on the field to begin her career.
“I had my coaches meeting with [Whitney Frary] and she said ‘always be prepared to be on the field,’ and then the next day we get the starting lineup and I’m on it,” Rice said. “I was very, very nervous, but I knew what to do. I just had to go out there and prove that I should be out there basically.”
Rice said the team was supportive throughout her transition into a starter, and have consistently “hyped her up.” Rice played alongside juniors Kayla Myers, Katie Stevenson, and Casey Granger, who are the top three players minute-getters for the Cardinals this season and have contributed to the team’s 1.08 average goals allowed per game.
Oswego came into this game off a 0-0 to the Geneseo Knights and was looking to get the offense back on the track. However, it was Plattsburgh who struck first.
After the 17-minute mark, sophomore Perri Anderson misplayed a goal kick that Villemaire intercepted in the air and dribbled into the far corner. She sent a cross into the goal box and graduate student Allison Seidman rushed to the ball, deflecting it past Anderson to put Plattsburgh up 1-0.
“I think it was just all about timing. I started my run a little bit before, but I wasn’t sure where the cross was going to land,” Seidman said. “Fortunately, it was the perfect timing where I just ran into it and kind of stomached it into the goal. It was pretty sick.
This was Seidman’s fifth goal of the season, which is the team lead, and third in the last two conference games. Villemaire tallied her fifth assist on the year.
The teams ended the half with the same score and the Cardinals leading 7-3 in shots.
Into the second half, Oswego did battle, recording two chances after the 10-minute mark, but it was again Plattsburgh who set the tone.
Graduate student Sam Spear started the play by stealing a lateral pass from Oswego in midfield. She passed it to Villemaire, who sent it deep into the offensive zone. Seidman chased after the ball, with Oswego trying to play it in the air, but the graduate student pressured the Lakers to send another pass backward. Villemaire charged hard, picked off the opposing pass, and made her way into the penalty area. She made a last-minute cut to make a Laker defender fall and shot it into the left side of the goal for her second goal in two games.
“I have been trying to take it more towards the middle, toward the net,” Villemaire said. “Instead of just shooting from a distance, trying to dribble more into the net and taking my shot closer to the goal. It finally worked.”
Now with a two goal lead, Plattsburgh’s defense along with sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Haley held down the Lakers to win the game in an important conference win. Oswego took only six shots, with Haley making three saves in her third straight shutout.
“I definitely didn’t expect us to have a shutout, but I’m really proud of us and we worked hard,” Seidman said. “I think we all knew that we needed that outcome and that’s why we got it because we just put it all out there.”
For the team’s graduate students and seniors who are graduating, pending playoffs, this could be their last matchup versus Oswego. Seidman said that she scored or assisted in every game she played against the Lakers and continuing that trend into this game was “pretty cool.” Against a significant rival, she said it was important that she could contribute in all of her career matchups.
The next day, the team had an afternoon non conference game against No. 5 Williams Smith Herons (9-1-2.) This game represented a homecoming for Spear and Frary. Spear played for William Smith for three seasons and Frary played four years there, graduating in 2013 before pursuing a coaching career that eventually led her to Plattsburgh.
Against such a strong opponent, the defense was pressured right from the first possession. Senior forward Julia Dimenna scored two in 20 minutes. In dramatic fashion, Spear scored off a corner kick to cut the deficit down to one for her second of the season. The Herons tallied one more with 90 seconds left in the half to take a 3-1 lead.
With under a minute left and the team on another corner kick, Rice created some magic of her own. Rice took the corner and the ball was immediately redirected out of the goal box, where Myers passed it back to Rice, who took a shot from deep outside the penalty area that majestically went into the net. This was Rice’s first collegiate goal and put the Cardinals back into the game.
“That’s a shot that [is] my sweet spot. In high school, I got three goals from that exact same shot,” Rice said. “I knew there was a minute left, so I was just like, ‘shoot it.’ I saw it go in, I was just so shocked.”
The second half was a different story, as Plattsburgh let up four straight to eventually lose 2-6.
“We knew going in that it was going to be a hard game. I mean, they’re ranked fifth, it was more of, looking back at it now, a learning experience. That’s what Coach [Frary] said too” Villemaire said. “We played pretty well and then we got to the point where they were just pinging the passes around us.”
Plattsburgh then traveled to Oneonta Oct. 12 to take on the Red Dragons. Despite the midweek road game, the Cardinals rallied, scoring two goals in the 80th and 82nd minute. Fitzgerald opened the scoring, stunning the goalkeeper off a penalty kick for her first goal since transiting to forward.
“Nora [Fitzgerald] is a beast wherever she is. Having the three of us up there, I feel like it is going to be unstoppable,” Villemaire said. “I like when she’s up there because she just works, she’s a work-horse.”
Rice scored her second in two games, again off an improbable shot from outside the penalty area. Plattsburgh went on to win 2-0, Haley, who made the start, picked up her fourth shutout in five games to build a 6-2-1 record in nine starts.
With this conference win, the Cardinals move back to .500 in the conference with a 3-3-1 record. It sits tied for fourth place with Brockport, both teams have 10 points.
The Cardinals stay on the road, as the team plays Fredonia Oct. 15. Fredonia is near the bottom of the conference standings and is an opportunity for Plattsburgh to continue to rise the SUNYAC Standings.
“We just have to stay focused. It’s all about staying focused because the second you lose that focus, something can happen,” Seidman said. “Especially right now since we’re fighting for that spot, we just got to do what we got to do.”