PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh State men's soccer team is headed to the SUNYAC Tournament championship.
Luke Rapaport and Chris Robertson both scored a goal late in the second half, and Patrick Feeley recorded a seven-save shutout to lead the second-seeded Cardinals (11-7-0) to a 2-0 defeat of third-seeded Buffalo State (15-4-0) Wednesday in a conference semifinal.
One could argue that the Bengals had the better of play and chances in the second half, but Plattsburgh certainly was more opportunistic.
Buffalo outshot the Cardinals, 10-6, in the second half, and the Bengals' Trevor Moreland nearly put his team ahead when he blasted a direct kick from just outside the 18-yard box off the crossbar with 19 minutes left in regulation.
Rapaport gave Plattsburgh a 1-0 lead with 4:32 left in regulation when he buried a loose ball near the 6-yard box into the back of the net off an assist from Alex Graci.
The scoring chance developed thanks to a free kick near midfield.
"When it comes to games like this, it's all about heart and being in the right place at the right time," Rapaport said.
"There was a big ball that was sent in, and I went in and curled around. I was the only guy alone with just one defender on me. I peeled off, and nobody covered me. The ball just bounced right in front of the net, and I just knew I had to attack and put it in the back of the net."
With the Bengals pressing for an equalizer and time winding down, the Cardinals added some insurance.
Robertson's goal came with just under two minutes to go in the second half and sent the Plattsburgh players as well as their fans into a frenzy as they all knew they were about to punch their ticket to the SUNYAC title game.
"This game was just like what our whole season has been like," Cardinals coach Chris Taylor said. "We had a rough start and a tough schedule early in the year. We took our lumps and were 2-5 at one point.
"The guys have been driving for weeks now and made the necessary changes. That's what the conference season has been about. It's been the heart and desire. We have talent, but talent does not win you games this time of year. What the guys are bringing every day is just driving this team forward."
Feeley anchored Plattsburgh in goal and was tested throughout.
Two of his best stops came early and midway through the second half, first making a diving stop on a shot from Buffalo's Ali Shawish before turning away a strike by Theo Pencic with 25:55 remaining.
"Pat was not playing early in the season," Taylor said. "It took an injury for him to get an opportunity, and he's a top-end keeper.
"Our No. 1 keeper, Ryan (Wilson), is a top-end keeper that suffered an injury, and not many teams have someone like Pat to put in goal and never miss a beat. Pat has been great for us."
The Cardinals will now travel to Oneonta and battle for the conference crown at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Plattsburgh suffered a 3-0 loss to the Red Dragons, Oct. 26, to close the regular season.
"We are riding a bit of a wave," Taylor said. "We took a bit of a knock against Oneonta when we were on a seven-game winning streak. I hate to use all the cliches, but it's about momentum and getting on that train and going.
"I said to the guys that we got two or three players that are driving us forward, and we are not ready for the season to be over. We don't need a lot of drivers. We just need guys to hop on and travel together."
Plattsburgh State 2, Buffalo State 0
Buffalo State 0 0 — 0
Plattsburgh State 0 2 — 2
Second half- 1, PSU, Rapaport (Graci), 85:28. 2, PSU, Robertson (Rapaport), 88:07.
Shots- Buffalo State 16, Plattsburgh State 10.
Saves- Andreas, BUF, 2. Feeley, PSU, 7.
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