PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh State men’s soccer coach Chris Waterbury was hoping his team would get to play someone new in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Tournament.
He got his wish.
The Cardinals (15-5-1) will oppose Wheaton, Ma. (16-5-0) on Saturday at a time to be determined at regional host St. Lawrence University in Canton.
The Saints will tangle with Thomas, Me. in the other first-round encounter, with the two winners of Saturday’s game playing on Sunday in the second round.
“We don’t know anything about Wheaton — we’ve never played them before,” Waterbury said. “We’ll be scrambling around to find out information on them.
“But that’s the beauty of the NCAA Tournament. It’s all good and we’ll go with it. We’ll practice (Monday) and start preparing for the game.”
Wheaton was the second seed entering the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference and defeated Babson College, 5-1, in the semifinals and then a 1-0 decision over top-seeded and host MIT in the championship game.
The Lyons avenged a 2-1 loss to MIT during the regular season and earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, earned their automatic berth into the tournament by defeating three teams by one-goal margins to win the SUNY Athletic Conference Tournament.
Plattsburgh, the fourth seed, recorded a 2-1 home win over fifth-seeded Buffalo State in the quarterfinals, a 1-0 win at top-seeded Oneonta in the semifinals and a 2-1 victory at second-seeded Cortland in the championship game this past Saturday.
“We’re happy to be here,” Waterbury said. “We’ve been taking it one game at a time and we want to represent Plattsburgh well.”
Oneonta was chosen as one of the at-large teams in the 61-team tournament.
The Cardinals will be returning to St. Lawrence’s Sandy Macallaster Field where they dropped a 1-0 nonconference game to the Saints late in the regular season where Waterbury didn’t overwork his players with the conference tournament on deck.
“Having played there before earlier in the season won’t hurt us,” Waterbury said. “It’s a massive field — as big as any in the country.”
The last time Plattsburgh played in the NCAA Tournament was the 2010 season where the Cardinals fell to Amherst College, 2-0, in the opening round, also at St. Lawrence.
Matt Hamilton, Tom Greene and Joe Aratari are the only Cardinals who were on the roster that season.