Friday, December 9, 2022

Women’s soccer one win from playoffs

By Liam Sample

Despite beginning the conference season winless through four games, it is now win and you’re in for the Plattsburgh Cardinals (9-5-2) women’s soccer team. Last weekend, the team traveled to Fredonia Oct. 15 to play the Blue Devils (2-8-4)  in a crucial matchup to help determine placings in the SUNYAC heading into playoffs. 

Fredonia was winless in conference play coming into the game, with the road game bringing an opportunity for Plattsburgh to grab three points in the conference standings in the Cardinals’ second to last SUNYAC game of the season. 

“I think getting [to Fredonia], we all knew that we had to win this game to make sure we were getting into the playoffs. Losing three games in the beginning [of the conference season] definitely changed our mindset on the season,” graduate student Allison Seidman said. “This game just was like, ‘we need to get this win in order to secure a spot and then we will deal with the other games after that.’”

Plattsburgh came into this game on a three game conference win streak, all of which have been shutouts, and being 4-1 overall on the road this season. 

The graduate students Kirsten Villemaire and Seidman, who are the first and second highest in goals on the team, again came to play and did not waste any time trying to put the team ahead. Seidman attempted to score 4:10 into the game, but had her shot saved. 

Before the 12-minute mark, Seidman controlled the ball in the offensive zone and passed it to Villemaire, who made a dribble move to open up space.

Quickly, she took a long shot from outside the penalty arc that was placed perfectly, as it snuck into the top left corner of the net. 

Seidman said that as center forward, one of her jobs is to position herself between the opponent’s defender when in the attacking third of the field and decide whether to “hold or check.” While doing this, she got the ball and said she “opened up” to find the play. 

“I saw Kirsten [Villemaire] in that spot she always hits. That shot from that angle, it is her sweet spot and always has been since [our first year,]” said Seidman. “I saw it and I was like, ‘all right, we’re going to try it.’ I trusted her and she just hit it.”

Following the goal, Plattsburgh’s offense was commanding and finished the first half with a 15-2 lead in shots. 

“We had a really good first half, where I felt like we possessed the ball a lot,” sophomore Sophia Hatziyianis said. “The whole game throughout, we were just very calm and calm on the ball.”

Hatziyianis, a midfielder, spoke of the cohesiveness of each sector of the team. She said how the defense, midfield, and forwards were able to connect passes during the game. Hatziyianis tallied a shot on goal late in the second half. 

Plattsburgh traveled without junior defender Kayla Myers, who made the decision to attend her sister’s high school soccer senior night.

“It was important to me that I was a part of it for her,” Myers said in a text message. “It was definitely a tough decision, but Coach [Whitney Frary]  told me it was one I had to make for myself.”

This caused the team’s formation to be shifted, as junior Nora Fitzgerald, who transitioned from defense to offense midway through the season, was moved back to her former position for the game. She was later named SUNYAC Offensive Player of the Week despite playing both positions during the week. 

Senior Anna McDuffie started the game at forward, where she registered two shots of her own. 

The Cardinals kept the same spirit into the second and did not let up a single shot during the half. Seidman scored one of her own with 5:30 remaining in the game to seal the win, she spoke of a couple opportunities she had to score on her own before the goal and began to start “taking people on and trying to shoot.”

“I didn’t find much success and I’m not going to blame it on the grass, but I kept getting stuck and rolling my ankle,” Seidman said. 

The play started with Villemaire passing to Fitzgerald, who attempted a shot. Seidman, who was in “perfect position” according to Fitzgerald, was able to finish the goal. This was her sixth of the season which put her in the team-lead. 

“After the goal happened, I was just like, ‘Nora [Fitzgerald], do you think you could’ve got there.’ She was like, ‘no, thank god you were there because there was no way I was getting there.’” Seidman described. “It was just a good feeling to be in the right spot.”

Plattsburgh hung on to win the game 2-0, which moved them into solo fourth in the SUNYAC Standings. Sophomore goalie Lauren Haley picked up her fifth shutout in her last six games, making two stops. The defense, which Seidman said is the “best in the SUNYAC,” put up another strong performance.

The Cardinals next played against Union College (8-4-2) Oct. 19 in a non-conference matchup on the road. Fitzgerald stayed hot, as she got Plattsburgh on the board before the 30 minute mark, but it was Union who led by a goal after the first half. A second half goal from junior Avery Durgan tied the game and led to a 2-2 final score. This was Durgan’s first score of the season.

Plattsburgh goes on to play its SUNYAC Finale against Buffalo State Oct. 22 (6-6-3), where a win would solidify a postseason appearance and a home game during the first-round of the playoffs. 

This is also Plattsburgh’s senior day, where they will recognize three graduate students and four seniors, who have the option to return with the extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19. 

Last year, Plattsburgh earned a bye during the first round of the conference playoffs and lost 3-0 to SUNY Cortland in the semi-finals at home. Fitzgerald said that she is excited to potentially not have a first-round bye because last season the team discovered that a week without a game is a long time compared to the regular season. She thinks it will be beneficial for the team to have that first round matchup, if the team makes the playoffs.

With the conference schedule only being nine games, it became a hard road to the playoffs for the team after beginning 0-3-1. For the first time this season, Plattsburgh is now over .500 in the SUNYAC. 

This comeback from the rock bottom has been a true coaching display from Frary, who is in her first-year at Plattsburgh. The team is now in strong position to potentially qualify for its eighth straight playoffs, with the team last winning the conference in 1998. 

“I’m definitely proud. We’ve been working extremely hard and it’s been showing in our results. We just have to finish strong on Saturday,” Fitzgerald said. “Playoffs are a whole new ball game that we won’t have to worry about what we did in the [regular] season.” 

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