By Eric Deemer Contributing Writer
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA – A friendly bounce here or there Wednesday and Oneonta State’s men would be preparing for a third straight trip to the SUNY Athletic Conference soccer final.
Instead, the top-seeded Red Dragons – winners of the last two SUNYAC titles – will have to wait to see if their 11-4-4 record is enough for them to get a berth into the NCAA Division III tournament for the third straight year.
Matt Hamilton took a shot that deflected off an O-State defender and into the goal two minutes before halftime to lift Plattsburgh State to a 1-0 victory over the host Red Dragons in a SUNYAC semifinal.
“It’s that same old story, if you don’t score you can’t win games,” said O-State coach Iain Byrne, whose top-seeded team held an 18-11 advantage in shots. “We just couldn’t put one in. All across the team we just couldn’t get that final touch.”
Fourth-seeded Plattsburgh (14-5-1), which lost, 2-1, to the Red Dragons in last year’s conference final, will travel to play third-seeded Cortland in the conference final at 1 p.m. Saturday. Cortland (11-6-1) beat No. 2 Brockport, 1-0, in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
O-State’s best chance Wednesday came in the 23rd minute. Freshman Jake Sutherland received a throughball from Dylan Williams and was 1-on-1 with Plattsburgh goalie Mitchell Jordon. Sutherland controlled the ball on the left side of the box and then dribbled past Jordon, but his 10-yard shot hit the left post.
“He went around the goalie and hit the post.” Byrne said of Sutherland’s chance. “A few bounces just didn’t go our way today.”
The Cardinals’ goal came when Steve Zacharczyk sent a pass from the midfield that found an unmarked Hamilton at the top of the penalty box on the left side. Hamilton settled it before chipping a 12-yard that appeared to be going wide. But an O-State defender’s clearance attempt deflected into the goal.
“Their shot was going wide and we deflected it in,” said Byrne, whose team advanced to the NCAA final four in 2011 and made it to the second round of last year’s tournament. “These things happen.”
In the second half, the Red Dragons had no shortage of changes.
Williams took a 35-yard free kick 15 minutes into the second half that found the head of Jared Van Brunt. That shot from 5 yards missed the right post by less than a foot. With five minutes left, Justin Rivera sent a high lofting corner kick deflected to Luke Halberg inside the box. Halberg’s 15-yard shot sailed over the cross bar.
“They’re quick on the counter and they defended well as a team,” Bryne said of Plattsburgh.
O-State will discover its NCAA tournament fate Monday, when the field is announced.