December 2, 2021

Red Dragons advance

Top-seeded Cortland to face Oswego for soccer crown

Katie Vartanian/contributing photographer

SUNY Cortland’s Riley Williams, left, battles for the ball Wednesday with Buffalo State’s Saleman Salim during a semifinal game of the SUNYAC tournament. Cortland won 2-1 to advance to the championship match against Oswego State.

The SUNY Cortland men’s soccer team, ranked fifth nationally and the top seed in the SUNYAC Tournament, took care of business in the semifinals Wednesday afternoon with a 2-1 victory over visiting Buffalo State.

The win improves the Red Dragons record to 15-2-1 and earns them a spot in the SUNYAC championship game Saturday against No. 6 Oswego State, which knocked off No. 2 SUNY New Paltz Wednesday afternoon.

The game against Buffalo State was competitive right from the start as both teams wanted to be the ones to strike and put the pressure on their opponent. Cortland was creating chances, but failing to convert.

With so many good chances coming, one was bound to find the back of the net. That finally happened in the 28th minute for the Red Dragons when Riley Williams scored on a header off a corner kick serve from Lukas Rubio to make it 1-0.

Cortland continued to generate fabulous looks the rest of the first half and early on in the second half, but every chance would just miss the net, hit the goalpost or be turned away by Bengals keeper Max Shoemaker.

“Scoring goals is tricky sometimes because you miss one or two easy ones and now everyone starts to think about it too much,” Cortland head coach Steve Axtell said. “You don’t want to think about it too much in front of the goal, you just want to do what naturally comes. I think that is a little bit of what happened today.”

Another good look from the Red Dragons came in the 76th minute when Mike Hunsucker was yanked down by a Bengals defender in the box, resulting in a penalty kick. Blake Aronson took the kick for Cortland and beat Shoemaker to make it 2-0 with 14 minutes remaining.

Now, down two goals, Buffalo State turned up the pressure for the final stretch of the game. The Bengals were much more aggressive on the ball and were finding opportunities to score in the process. They finally converted in the 82nd minute when Theo Pencic headed the ball to Pa Lu, who put a shot past Red Dragons keeper Braden Melveney to make it 2-1.

Cortland kept its composure during the final eight minutes of the game though, turning away all the Buffalo State chances and securing the 2-1 victory.

“2-1 is a tough lead but I think our guys stayed locked in, focused and did what they needed to do,” Axtell said.

The Red Dragons registered 23 shots and 10 corners during the win. A lot of opportunities were there for them, but they could not find the net. Keeping the pressure on the opponent and creating, however, is always important.

“Possession-wise I think we were great,” Axtell said. “I told our guys after the game that it was a really good performance but we probably should have and could have scored a few more of those chances. The biggest thing is creating chances; we are in trouble if we are not creating chances.”

The Red Dragons will host Oswego State at 1 p.m. Saturday, a game they are fully prepared for.

“It doesn’t matter what seed anybody is, a final is a final,” Axtell said. “They’re a really good team and they’ve had a lot of good results. We played really well against them the first time around but that doesn’t mean anything now. We have to prepare for a final no matter who it is.”

WOMEN’S SOCCER

No. 3 SUNY Cortland 3 No. 2 Plattsburgh State 0
The Red Dragons’ women’s soccer team also advanced to the SUNYAC finals thanks to goalkeeper Lexi Ramonetti’s career-high 11 saves. Ramonetti registered her sixth clean sheet of the season.

Jaden Galluzzo scored twice and assisted on Isabella Auth’s first career goal. Alannah O’Shea, Sabrina Rodrigues and Lizzy Sabatele also added an assist apiece for Cortland.

The Red Dragons will play at No. 1 SUNY Geneseo at 1 p.m. Saturday in the SUNYAC finals.