By JOHN CORYER Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Pressure situations are nothing new to the Plattsburgh State men’s soccer team.
After surviving three tough games to win the SUNY Athletic Conference Tournament, the stakes become even higher for the Cardinals this weekend.
Plattsburgh will oppose Wheaton (Mass.) in Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. opening-round game of the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Host St. Lawrence University will tangle with Thomas (Maine) in the first game of the day.
The two winners will meet at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the regional title game.
“Even though this is a different game, our last four games have been one-goal games,” Plattsburgh coach Chris Waterbury said. “We lost at St. Lawrence by a goal (1-0) and then won three one-goal games in the SUNYACs.
“We’ve played 12 one-goal games this year, and that’s a lot. Nothing has come easy for us this year.”
Wheaton (16-5) earned an automatic spot into the NCAA Tournament by winning the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Tournament.
The Lyons rolled to a 5-1 victory over Babson College in the semifinals and then knocked off host and top seed MIT 1-0 in the championship game, avenging a loss in the regular season.
Wheaton has scored 50 goals thus far and is led by Travis Blair (16-5-37).
Five Lyons have 10 points or more, including Noah Kissoff (8-3-19) and Ben Altheu (7-1-15). Keeper Matt Dickey has a 14-5 record and 0.91 goals-against average.
“They have a couple of guys who can score goals, and one of them (Blair) has scored a ton of them,” Waterbury said. “Obviously, we’re concerned a lot about that.
“They’re very athletic, and they move the ball quickly. They’re in the tournament for a good reason.
“But we have to do what we do best — to the best of our ability, for better or for worse.”
The Cardinals (15-5-1) enter the event following three one-goal victories in the SUNYAC Tournament.
No. 4 seed Plattsburgh opened with a 2-1 home win over No. 5 seed Buffalo State in the quarterfinals, recorded a 1-0 victory at top-seeded Oneonta in the semifinals and a 2-1 decision at No. 2 seed Cortland to earn its automatic NCAA berth.
The Cardinals have four players with 10 points or more — Alexis Archilla (10-3-23), Matt Hamilton (7-4-18), Tom Greene (5-5-15) and Nick Parrella (3-5-11). Mitchell Jordon has an 11-4 record in net, with a 0.92 goals-against average.
A concern heading into the season was on defense, where the Cardinals were extremely young. But Plattsburgh has improved defensively as the season has gone on.
The Cardinals have scored 43 goals and allowed 19.
“Everybody is pretty excited, and the mood is good,” Waterbury said. “We’ve had several good practices and the guys are working hard.
“We’re reasonably healthy. For this time of the year, we’re as healthy as we can possibly be.”
The last time the Cardinals appeared in the NCAA Tournament was in 2010, when they dropped a 2-0 opening-round contest to Amherst in a game also played at St. Lawrence.
The first game Saturday will feature the Saints (15-2-2) against the Terriers (12-7-1).
St. Lawrence is ranked 17th nationally and won the Liberty League championship with a 3-1 victory over Skidmore in the finals at MacAllaster Field.
Thomas, meanwhile, was the fourth seed in the North Atlantic Conference and defeated No. 6 seed Colby-Sawyer 4-1 in the finals. In the semifinals, the Terriers were a 2-0 winner over Castleton State.
Plattsburgh rival Oneonta made it into the 61-team field with an at-large berth and will play Oberlin Saturday in Rochester.