By Rob Centorani Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — For all the men’s and women’s soccer programs have accomplished at Oneonta State over the years, the one they haven’t done is to qualify for the NCAA Division III tournament in the same year.
Until now, that is.
O-State’s women qualified for the NCAA women’s tournament for the first time since 2010 by winning the SUNY Athletic Conference tournament Saturday by a 4-1 score over visiting Geneseo.
The Red Dragons’ men appeared to be in trouble after falling, 2-1, to Plattsburgh in a SUNYAC semifinal at home last Tuesday. But they received at-large berth and will compete in the tournament for the third straight year.
“Yeah, I did (expect to make the tournament),” said O-State men’s coach Iain Byrne, whose team advanced to the final four in San Antonio in 2011. “We’ve been the top four all season in the regional ranking and once the three teams above us won their conference tournaments, we were the next team. I was optimistic. I think it’s deserved.”
Both O-State squads will play first-round tournament games Saturday.
The women, who won the national title in 2003 and advanced to the round of 16 in 2010, will travel to William Smith College in Geneva to play Farmingdale State at a time to be announced. The winner of that game will play the host school or Cabrini College in a second-round game Sunday.
“We’ve been getting better each game,” said O-State women’s coach Liz McGrail, a Stamford graduate. “Saturday was the best 90 minutes we’ve put together all season.”
Bryne’s 11-4-4 squad will travel to the University of Rochester to play Oberlin College of Ohio (13-3-4), likely in a night game Saturday. The winner will play Rochester (13-2-2) or SUNYIT (16-1-2) in the second round Sunday.
“I didn’t even know where it was when I first heard the name,” Byrne said of his first-round opponent. “Last year when we played MIT, I didn’t even know they had a soccer team. It’s good playing different teams. When you play the same SUNYAC schools week in and week out, and you know their style, it can get difficult. Now, we have a chance to play somebody new and we like that.”
O-State’s women will bring a 12-4-3 record into its game against Farmingdale (13-9). The Red Dragons have three players left over from the squad that reached the Sweet 16 in 2010, including Karly DeSimone, the MVP of the SUNYAC tournament.
“We definitely have a little bit of experience,” McGrail said of the three holdovers from 2010 team. “They were freshmen in 2010 and they’ve been wanting to get back there.”
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.