CANTON — The postseason run for a young Plattsburgh State men’s soccer team ended as the Cardinals suffered a 2-0 loss to Wheaton in the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Tournament at St. Lawrence University Saturday.
Wheaton got off to a hot start in the opening minutes of the game before Travis Blair gave his team a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute. Blair scored an unassisted goal from the top of the box, putting a hard shot past Plattsburgh goalkeeper Mitchell Jordan for his 17th goal of the season.
“To be truthful, the game was pretty fragmented to start,” Plattsburgh coach Chris Waterbury said. “The energy level was through the roof for both teams. The pace was so high that is was really hard to function. That early goal didn’t rattle us, but we showed some immaturity by trying to desperately get one back.”
Jordan, however, made five impressive first-half saves to keep the Cardinals in the game.
“At halftime, it was anybody’s game,” Waterbury said. “The final product (Saturday) just wasn’t there. We did so many things well, but just never really connected in the final third.”
The Cardinals began to generate some offense in the latter part of the opening half. One of their best chances came in the 17th minute when Ethan Votraw hit a hard shot from outside of the box that skipped just wide of the net.
The two teams exchanged possessions in the second half, with a lot of play in the middle portion of the field. Wheaton had a good chance to add to its lead when Kevin Gil hit a hard shot on net from the corner of the box.
Jordan, however, made a reflex kick save to deflect the shot out of bounds.
“Mitch did a good job and had a good game,” Waterbury said. “You look at the 2-0 loss, but when times were desperate, he did a good job making key saves when we had to. He kept them at bay.
“The game got really stretched in the second half. Part of me liked that because I feel we have good team speed. It makes it difficult to keep possession, though. We were so close to doing some really good things.”
Wheaton’s Luke Finkelstein scored what proved to be the backbreaker for the Cardinals in the 77th minute off a free kick. Finkelstein hit a hard shot from 30 yards out into the near corner, past the outstretched arms of Jordan.
“Obviously, I think our guys showed good character,” Waterbury said. “We didn’t need two goals (right away), we just needed one to put them on their heels. We didn’t die after that, for sure. Even with 30 seconds left, they kept working hard.”
Plattsburgh State continued to fight in the final 10 minutes of regulation but was unable to get one on the board. Senior Joe Aratari had an open shot with under three minutes left in regulation, but Wheaton’s Matt Dickey made the save and the Lyons held on to earn the 2-0 victory.
Dickey made two saves to earn the win and improve to 10-5-0. Meanwhile, Jordon made nine saves on the day in the loss and ends his season with an 11-5-0 record.
Wheaton held a 15-10 advantage in shots, while both teams took four corners in the game. With the win, Wheaton improves to 17-5-0 and will face host St. Lawrence University Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. in the second round.
The loss drops Plattsburgh State to 15-6-1 overall, bringing another successful season for the Cardinals to a close. Saturday’s loss also marks the end of four Cardinals’ careers – Matt Hamilton, Tom Greene, Joe Aratari and Steve Zacharczyk. Hamilton and Zacharczyk have been with the program since 2009 while Greene and Aratari joined the Cardinals in 2010. Since 2009, the Cardinals have compiled a 71-21-14 record, won two conference titles and made three NCAA Tournament appearances.
“I can deal with the loss, but knowing we’re losing four really good seniors with character and great families is tough,” Waterbury said. “That’s harder than losing the game. I’m extremely proud of the team and the progress we made as a group. This is the youngest team we’ve had in 20 years. The guys worked hard and really deserve praise.”
Wheaton 2, Plattsburgh 0
Plattsburgh 0 0 — 0
Wheaton 1 1 — 2
First half- 1, W, Blair, 13:46.
Second half, 2, W, Finkelstein, 32:47.
Shots: Wheaton 15, Plattsburgh 10.
Saves: Dickey, W, 2. Jordon, PSU, 9.