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Men's soccer flawlessly claims SUNYAC title

by Panagiotis Argitis - Managing Editor
Fri, Nov 9th 2018 02:00 pm
Brockport men's soccer team defeated the #6 ranked Cortland 2-0 for the SUNYAC Championship. The Golden Eagles lost to the Red Dragons 3-2 earlier in the year, but returned with a vengeance to steal the SUNYAC crown.
Brockport men's soccer team defeated the #6 ranked Cortland 2-0 for the SUNYAC Championship. The Golden Eagles lost to the Red Dragons 3-2 earlier in the year, but returned with a vengeance to steal the SUNYAC crown.
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Projected to finish sixth, not seen as a serious contender and considered too young; this was the talk surrounding The College at Brockport men’s soccer team at the beginning of the 2018 season. Being neglected can demoralize or it can inspire a team. 

Falling short of the top is an idea that has been stuck on repeat for years now, represented by scores, inconsistency and seven SUNYAC tournament eliminations in eight years. With the growing weight of year after year of failed seasons resting on its shoulders, the team prevailed. 

The chip on the team’s shoulder has only grown larger over the years and has become the game’s anchor under head coach Gary LaPierta. It was no different in 2018, with clear intentions from the very start of the season. 

“This is our year,” junior goalie Joey Romano said in pre-season. “We are working our a***s off and we all know what we want and what we are here for.” 

Without expectations from any other team but itself, Brockport fell under the radar early and worked in the shadows of the spotlight. It continued to do so until the opening weekend of conference play, where the team beat bitter conference rivals, Plattsburgh and Potsdam.

To the surprise of the competition, Brockport’s bright start did not end at two victories, or three or even four. Its grit was unmatched for an undefeated streak of seven games with five victories, a record that was not touched in six years. 

With every head turned towards the SUNYAC leader, Brockport’s heart skipped a beat for the first time all year as the No.1 spot slipped away after consecutive losses to Oswego and Cortland. Brockport finished as the third seed, but the road to what it had worked for all year had just begun. 

Rather than being the catalyst to a loss of their heads, the Golden Eagles used the memory of elimination from last year’s SUNYAC quarterfinal match to shut out Plattsburgh and advance to the semis against New Paltz. They carried the same emotions into the second round and battled for another 2-0 shutout. 

From the team with no shot of competing at a high level to the team with a total of two losses and 10 victories, Brockport did not lose grip of its final goal or sense of character; both of which led it to the SUNYAC championship game. 

The stage was set for the biggest game of the SUNYAC season, the final round of the tournament. It was Brockport and #6 Cortland who played on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. for the rights to bring the championship trophy back home. 

Kick-off prompted an immediate battle from both sides, with constant attacks and traded shots. Cortland outshot Brockport in the first half, but to no avail as Brockport goalie and tournament MVP, Tautis Poniskaitis, stayed solid in between the sticks. 

Despite the incoming shots from the Red Dragons, Brockport found a way to open the scoring after middie Jason Hayes found his right-hand man, Quintin Volpe, for a powerful header. 

Brockport’s spirit reached new heights in the second half. Defensemen or not, all of Brockport’s players fought against any attempted play from Cortland. 

With time winding down, Cortland pressured for the win but left gaping holes for Brockport to run in. This allowed Volpe to cross a sublime ball into the box where junior Jeff Hibbard sealed the game with Brockport’s second goal. 

The final whistle of the 2018 SUNYAC tournament was blown and the Golden Eagles were crowned SUNYAC Champions for the first time since 2009. The victors flooded the pitch and cheered on as LaPierta and his staff all hugged with smiles on their faces.

Upon winning the SUNYACs, Brockport received an automatic bid into the 2018 NCAA Division III National Championship. 

Nine years later and the men’s soccer SUNYAC trophy is brought back to Brockport, a vision turned into reality by the team’s collective culture. It adds to the growing list of The College at Brockport Athletic’s accomplishments and reinforces the college’s placement as a conference powerhouse.

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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