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Men's soccer vaults itself back into playoff picture

by Panagiotis Argitis - Editor-in-Chief
Tue, Oct 22nd 2019 09:00 pm
Sophomore Zach Langelotti receives a pass and senior Jeff Hibbard makes a run to get open on Saturday, Oct. 5 against SUNY Plattsburgh.
Sophomore Zach Langelotti receives a pass and senior Jeff Hibbard makes a run to get open on Saturday, Oct. 5 against SUNY Plattsburgh.

With basically no room for error after a rocky start to conference play, The College at Brockport men’s soccer team seems to have rescued its fortunes following a pair of victories in the closing stages of SUNYAC play. 

Prior to the opening of this week, Brockport’s hopes of defending its conference title were at the brink of vanishing as the team had only managed a single win from its first six SUNYAC matchups. The team looked set to become this year’s biggest disappointment as it hung at the bottom of the conference standings — until this weekend. 

An overtime win against conference leader SUNY Oneonta and a convincing victory over SUNY New Paltz breathed new life into Brockport’s season, as it sets its sight on an unlikely postseason berth. 

The start of the road back up the SUNYAC ladder began on Friday, Oct. 18 against Oneonta. Numbers wise, the two sides lacked similarities, as Oneonta ruled the conference with an unbeaten record. Brockport, on the other hand, sat on the lower side of the table. In order to gain postseason access, Brockport needed a victory as point totals did not allow for a slip-up. 

Despite the rank difference between the two, Brockport maintained level with the opposition during the opening half. Oneonta scored first, but Brockport quickly equalized through a penalty kick conversion by senior forward Jeff Hibbard. The following half saw two more goals, as each side claimed one apiece to push the game into overtime. 

The first overtime period finished in a stalemate, only by effect of Brockport senior goalie Tautis Poniskaitis, who’s heroics kept his team alive. In the dying minutes of the second overtime stint, Hibbard scored the game-winner to save the Golden Eagles’ season. 

The victory over Oneonta was not Brockport’s ticket to the postseason, but it was a good first step toward claiming a spot. 

“The weight isn’t off our shoulders yet,” senior left back Michael Meyers said. “We have to win next week to make the playoffs.” 

After getting a taste of winning once again, Brockport headed to New Paltz for another decisive contest toward the conference playoff race. Despite sitting in eighth out of 10 in the standings, New Paltz is also fighting for a place in the tournament. 

The matchup was controlled by Brockport for majority of regulation, as New Paltz failed to compete in the attacking third, registering four shots on target compared to Brockport’s 11. Inside the first 30 minutes of the opening half, junior defender Nolan Byrnes volleyed a bouncing ball from 25 yards out to the top of the opposition’s net to score the deciding goal of the game. At the final whistle, Brockport walked away with 1-0 victory and bounced back up to sixth place in the conference standings, which is the final playoff spot. 

While Brockport fell into the depths of the conference rankings early on without a sign of a comeback, the group’s commitment to its goal of defending its title was the driving force behind the season turnaround. 

“Heart is what it took,” Byrnes said. “It was a whole team effort. From the last guy to the first guy, everyone contributed.” 

Despite the pair of victories, Brockport is not safe yet. The team will look to defeat SUNY Geneseo in the final game of the campaign in order to secure a place in this year’s SUNYAC tournament. Geneseo currently sits one game behind Brockport, in seventh place. 

The must-win game for Brockport is set to take place on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 1 p.m. away from home. 

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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