CORTLAND — An amazing run through the SUNY Athletic Conference Tournament has ended in a championship for the Plattsburgh State men’s soccer team.
The fourth-seeded Cardinals recorded three one-goal victories in the event, capped off by Saturday’s 2-1 win over second-seeded Cortland.
Tom Greene’s goal midway through the second half broke a 1-all tie and put Plattsburgh into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
“No question, this was just a fantastic team effort,” Plattsburgh coach Chris Waterbury said. “I’m just incredibly proud of our team. Credit goes to our guys.
“We defended hard and played with a lot of character (Saturday). We got a tremendous amount of leadership, collectively as a team. We have a young team and it has been a journey for us.”
Plattsburgh (15-5-1) took a 1-0 lead into the second half.
But, Cortland (11-7-1) tied it off a nice individual effort by Dillon Johnson with 6:19 gone in the second half. Johnson got control of the ball in the left corner, beat a defender to the right, cut across the top of the box and beat another defender before scoring inside the left post.
“It was similar to our first goal,” Waterbury said. “We stood their player up, but (keeper) Mitchell (Jordon) struggled with his footing some. The ground was a little bit soft.”
Just over 15 minutes later, with 21:58 gone, Joe Aratari carried the ball down the right side and fed a cross into the box where Greene one-touched the ball into the open side of the net.
“It was a great goal,” Waterbury said. “We put together a number of passes. Nate Economou got the ball on the flank to Aratari, who made a nice cross in front to Greene.
“There was a good build-up before scoring the goal and that’s something we have been working on all season. It was nice to see.”
Plattsburgh grabbed a first-half lead on a goal by Alexis Archilla at the 29:03 mark.
The ball was sent to the top of the box and misplayed by the Red Dragons’ defense. Archilla was able to get a foot on it and tucked a low shot inside the right post from 12 yards out.
“It was a good goal,” Waterbury said. “It didn’t look that dangerous at first, but their goalie tried to plant his foot and couldn’t do so. I think we caught Cortland off guard a little on the play and it was great hustle by Archilla.
“I was nervous in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the game because Cortland was playing with a lot of adrenalin. They were flying and winning the 50-50 balls. It took a while for us to battle through that.
“Then we started to win the physical battle. After we scored, we were knocking on the door the last eight or nine minutes of the half. We were ever so close to getting the second goal and I felt we couldn’t let these chances get away.”
Jordon finished with four saves in the Plattsburgh nets and Tim Beauvais had five stops for Cortland. The Cardinals held a 22-13 shot advantage.
“I think we also had something like a 10-1 advantage in corner kicks,” Waterbury said.
It was Plattsburgh’s first SUNYAC Tournament title since 2010 and Waterbury heaped praise on the team’s defense.
“Going into the season, I thought we would be dynamic in the attacking third of the field,” he said. “Defensively, however, we didn’t know who was going to play and where. We had so many new faces.
“But in three playoff games, we gave up two goals total. My hat goes off to our entire defense.
“I felt that if we got into the SUNYAC Tournament, we were going to be a bad draw for teams. We were still growing as a team during the season.”
Plattsburgh will now await word on who it will be playing and where in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. That news could come as early as today.
The Cardinals’ Matt Hamilton was chosen as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Teammates Clay Sherman and Fabian Chaparro joined Hamilton on the all-tournament team.
Plattsburgh 2, Cortland 1
Plattsburgh 1 1 —2
Cortland 0 1 — 1
First half- 1, PSU, Archilla, 29:03.
Second half- 2, Cort, Johnson, 6:19. 3, PSU, Greene (Aratari). 21:58.
Shots: Plattsburgh 22, Cortland 13.
Saves: Jordon, PSU, 4. Beauvais, Cort, 5.