By JOHN CORYER Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Two years ago, the Oneonta State men’s soccer team was a 4-2 winner at home over Plattsburgh State in the SUNY Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals.
And last season, the Red Dragons knocked off the Cardinals, 2-1, in Plattsburgh in the tournament championship game.
The fourth-seeded Cardinals will look to avoid another loss to the Red Dragons in today’s 1:30 p.m. semifinals at top-seeded Oneonta.
“To be honest, I don’t think about the two losses to Oneonta the past two years,” Plattsburgh coach Chris Waterbury said. “I think of Oneonta as a rival, like anyone else we play in the conference.
“The way I feel about it is that they’re in our way. I think, with the way the conference is set up this season, anyone can beat anyone on a given day.”
Oneonta (11-3-4, 7-0-2) went unbeaten in conference regular season play, including a 2-1 overtime home win over Plattsburgh on October 11.
“The first time we played them, was played pretty well and I was pretty happy with the effort,” Waterbury said. “It was a mid-season game and we were in a little bit of an injury stretch.
“Between the Oneonta and New Paltz games that weekend, we were dropping like flies and struggling in some ways. We were dead at the end of the Oneonta game.”
In that game, Tom Greene gave the Cardinals (13-5-1, 6-3) the lead in the first half.
But Dylan Williams then tied it for the Red Dragons with 12:19 left in regulation and Zef Saljanin’s goal with just three seconds remaining in the second overtime sent Plattsburgh to a very disappointing loss.
“Oneonta is quick and technical and they play real good soccer,” Waterbury said. “They’ve got an awful lot of weapons and can score in different ways. They have some real big guys in the box and some smaller quick ones.”
Williams (10-3-23), Saljanin (7-2-16) and Alex Winiarski (3-6-12) are the leading point producers for Oneonta.
The Cardinals advanced to the semifinals when Alexis Archilla’s two goals gave Plattsburgh a 2-1 home victory over Buffalo State this past Saturday in the quarterfinals.
“I thought we played pretty well against Buffalo State,” Waterbury said. “The rain made the ball skip more and we could have been sharper.
“But we played well enough to win.”
The Cardinals, who are in good shape physically going into today’s game, have been creating a number of scoring chances. But taking advantage of those chances has been a problem.
“Part of me says it would be really nice to get a couple of cheap goals and get some breaks,” Waterbury said. “But part of me says that we can catch some breaks by creating them.”
Archilla (9-3-21), Matt Hamilton (6-4-16) and Greene (4-5-13) are leading the Cardinals in points.
Mitchell Jordon has a 9-4 record and .99 goals-against average in net for Plattsburgh.
The Cardinals, however, have their work cut out for them.
If Plattsburgh wins today, it has to play at the winner of today’s other semifinal — third-seeded The College of Brockport at second-seeded Cortland — in Saturday’s conference championship game.
“We definitely have a tough road ahead, but that’s the bed we made for ourselves,” Waterbury said. “We deserve to have a tough road ahead because we didn’t do what it takes to be in the driver’s seat.”
While the Cardinals play on turf at home, Oneonta does not.
“It’s going to be a pretty soft field,” Waterbury said. “It’s hard to say what kind of effect it will have on the game.
“Oneonta plays a similar game to ours and we both want to keep the ball on the ground.”