Upstate Update - Week 9
By Mani Tafari
The Upstate Update brings you up to speed on Division III men's soccer in the "Upstate" New York region, home to the SUNYAC, Liberty League, and Empire 8. Several key matches will be recapped each week along with a more in-depth look at a Game of the Week.
Game of the Week
Oneonta at Cortland
Wednesday, October 31
Both share the moniker of the Red Dragons and an attacking and entertaining brand of soccer that has led to impressive regular seasons and deep NCAA runs over the past decade.
This season, Cortland has been the dominant team in the SUNYAC and earned the top seed in the conference and the right to host their fellow Red Dragons in the league semi-final.
Oneonta were last season’s SUNYAC champions and knew that their biggest threats to repeat would be the boys from Cortland.
The Season Thus Far
Oneonta entered the game with a 10-4-4 record, solidly on the bubble for a NCAA invitation which seems to have become an automatic selection over the past few seasons. One more win against a quality opponent would likely punch their ticket to the big dance.
Cortland are having an amazing season and entered the game as one of the very few one loss teams in the country. The hosts know they will be dancing come November but would rather dance as SUNYAC kings.
Right from the opening whistle, the contest had the feel of an NCAA game. An enthusiastic Cortland crowd provided the atmosphere for a late fall playoff game as the two most dominant teams in the SUNYAC did battle.
Cortland fans would have to wait until the 81st minute for excitement and it came in the form of an Oneonta goal. Roberto Ventura scored the opening goal and Oneonta were nine minutes away from a place in the SUNYAC conference finals.
Relentless Cortland pressure would pay off with just over two minutes remaining when Jake Keller equalized for the hosts.
The deadlock was not broken in overtime and penalties were required to settle this highly entertaining game. After 110 minutes of physical battle, the game would belong to the team that possessed the mental edge required to win the penalty shootout and advance to the conference final. That team was the Cortland Red Dragons.
Oneonta (10-4-5 / 5-2-2) is a quality team who will hope the committee will consider their strong strength of schedule and impressive season when making the decision for at-large tournament spots.
Cortland (15-1-3 / 8-1-0) is aiming to win much more than the SUNYAC championship.
Around the Region
Brockport 2, New Paltz 0 - Brockport (14-4-2 / 5-2-2) travels to New Paltz (11-6-1 / 6-2-1) and defeats a very good team to earn a spot in the SUNYAC finals. New Paltz had some impressive wins last season and signaled that they would challenge for the league crown in the near future. That near future was this season as they defeated both league heavyweights Cortland and Oneonta during an impressive season. Brockport in the meanwhile were quietly working and piling up wins while focus was trained on the league’s more popular teams. In winning this game, Brockport puts itself firmly in the conversation of a tournament invite and proves that they are a quality team that can beat any team in the region.
Hobart 4, Vassar 2 - This was a repeat of the 2017 conference final. This first round game of the Liberty League playoff pitted two very good teams who needed to win the league tournament in order to dance in November. Hobart (8-7-2 / 5-3-1) had a mixed non-league season but were once again dominant when facing Liberty League competition. This trend would continue as they scored four goals against a Vassar (9-7-0 / 5-4-0) squad who had a stellar year but just had defensive lapses at the wrong time of the season.
Ithaca 1, Skidmore 0 - The Bombers (13-2-3 / 5-2-2) are in the Liberty League semi-finals for the first time in school history. A very strong performance from Ithaca sees them knock out Skidmore (9-6-3 / 4-4-1) who loses in the first round for the second year in a row and still in search of its first conference crown. Skidmore can be proud of a solid season where they had big overtime comeback wins on the road and continued to survive after many had written them off. This is a team with a big future. For Ithaca, the future is now. The Bombers will hope that this win will have them firmly on the dance bubble and on the committee’s radar.
Team of the Week
Look who’s dancing.
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