For the third straight season, Oneonta is headed to the Class B regional final in the NYSPHSAA boys soccer tournament. But this time the opponent is not the Westhill Warriors.
Six seed Skaneateles knocked off fourth-seeded Westhill, 2-1, in the Section III Class B final, setting up an new opponent for OHS, which won its fourth straight Section IV title Saturday, Nov. 2, with a 4-3 win over Chenango Valley.
“Well, you dont wish for anyone because you get who you get,” Oneonta coach Alex Brannan said. “I got to watch some of the game, and I thought Westhill was good. So Skaneateles must be good. We have to come to play.”
Coming to play may be more difficult than Brannan lets on as the Yellowjackets travel to Liverpool High School, just north of Syracuse and more than two hours away, for an 11 a.m. kickoff Saturday, Nov. 9. Beyond a 7 a.m. departure, OHS will be dealing with an unfamilair surface in artificial turf and unpredictable conditions that become more of a factor as fall wears on.
“Weather conditions are a big factor and whoever adjusts faster usually does well,” Brannan said. “It’s hard to win on the road, but in this spell of what we’ve done we lost at home last year, so hopefully we can go on the road and win this time.”
Early forecasts show spotty clouds and temperatures in the high 30s Saturday in Syracuse.
Brannan also said that unpredictable conditions have already played a role in the Yellowjackets postseason, specifically during the first twenty minutes of the section final as OHS conceded almost as many goals (three) as it had all season (four). A pair of defensive errors broke down what had been a stingy Oneonta defense.
“I told them they can’t make as many mistakes as we did or we will be out,” Brannan said. “The weather has been kind of tough so it’s hard to do what you want to do, but you get a lot of talking and things you don’t normally get to do. The kids feel comfortable, like it’s any other game.”
Fortunately for the Yellowjackets, a recent surge in offensive production from wide spaces has given a different dimension to the team’s attack. Having multiple ways to produce chances should reduce the effect of uncertain conditions.
“We work on that (wide play) all year and sometimes it just takes longer for them to get it. And as fast as you get it you can lose it,” Brannan said. “We are pretty good up the middle too, and a lot of teams we played closed down the middle because they didn’t want to get beat there. So we’ve adapted to that.”
While Saturday does not offer OHS redemption in terms of opponent, it does give the Yellowjackets a chance to redeem losses in this round each of the last two seasons.
A young team surprised some by reaching this stage last year, and Brannan said after the loss that there were steps his team had to make to break through. One year later and with more seniors on this roster, Brannan said it is time to dream a little bigger.
“I think we’ve done great. We lost two starters and we will probably lose two or three this year, and I already have the guys to do it next year,” Brannan said. “But now is the time to do it. We’re three games from the state title. You can’t keep saying ‘next year, next year.’ The seniors don’t have next year. Eventually you’ve got to go and do it.”