PLATTSBURGH — With its season now on the line every game, the Plattsburgh State men’s soccer team is showing some character.
The Cardinals, with no at-large bid to count on, need to win the SUNY Athletic Conference Tournament in order to get into the NCAA Division III Tournament and are two-thirds of the way there.
Fourth-seeded Plattsburgh, which has grinded out two tough victories to advance, will play at second-seeded Cortland at 11 a.m. today in the championship game.
“We’re excited to be in the finals and we want to make the most of it,” Plattsburgh coach Chris Waterbury said. “Our goal all along is to give our seniors one more game.”
The Cardinals (14-5-1, 6-3), who recorded a 2-1 home win over fifth-seeded Buffalo State in the quarterfinals, advanced to the finals with Wednesday’s 1-0 thriller at top-seeded Oneonta.
Matt Hamilton’s goal late in the first half, at 43:18, stood up and Mitchell Jordon was in net for the shutout.
“It was a great team win,” Waterbury said. “It was a relatively even first half and we just bunkered down on defense with a vengeance in the second half. We got the goal we needed in the first half and I tip my hat to our back four and Mitchell who made the lead stand up.
“We played really well in the win over Buffalo State and did some good things against Oneonta. It’s not the way I would have liked to have won, but we’ll take the win. We defended and tried to score in transition. We got our chances, but weren’t able to put the final dagger in.”
Cortland (11-6-1, 6-2-1), meanwhile, earned a bye in the opening round and then edged third-seeded The College at Brockport, 1-0, in the other semifinal on Wednesday.
Matt Williams’ goal with 41:25 gone in the opening half was the margin of difference.
The Cardinals and Red Dragons met during regular season play on October 5 in Plattsburgh and Cortland emerged with a 2-1 overtime win.
Following a scoreless first half, Tom Greene gave the Cardinals the lead with 10:22 gone in the second stanza.
But Darren McCormack tied it for Cortland on a free kick with 5:17 left in regulation and Dillon Johnson scored the game-winning goal 6:56 into the first overtime.
Bryan Merlos (6-4-16), McCormack (6-3-15) and Johnson (5-1-11) lead the Red Dragons in points. Tim Beauvais had a 10-6-1 record and a 1.13 goals-against in net.
“Cortland is capable of playing a lot of different ways,” Waterbury said. “They can go over the top or be technical. They are a very good team, with speed. They are absolutely dangerous on set pieces and they scored two goals that way against us the first time we played them.
“They’ve proven they can beat us.”
The Cardinals counter with Alexis Archilla (9-3-21), Hamilton (7-4-18), Greene (4-5-13) and Nick Parrella (3-5-11).
Jordon sports a 10-4 record and 0.92 goals-against in net.
“We’re pretty healthy and we’re at the point now where injuries are not an excuse,” Waterbury said. “This is all about us doing the right things. We’re playing a real good opponent, but it’s more about us doing everything that we need to do.”