“SUNYAC soccer season off and running”

We have all heard the phrase "wait ‘til next year." Whether your team is good or bad, when the season is over, well, it’s over. As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, we know one thing: The SUNYAC soccer season is bearing down. With each season come dramatic finishes, clutch plays, unbelievable upsets and the Cinderella story. So slip on your slippers and let’s see if we can’t predict this year’s Cinderella.

As always, it’s ladies first, so away we go with the 2009 SUNYAC women’s, then men’s soccer previews.

Last year, the Oneonta Red Dragons captured the regular season championship, and claimed their eighth conference tournament championship in the last nine years.

Christine Marra from Oneonta State claimed the Player of the Year award.

Rookie of the Year honors went to Reilly Condidorio of Fredonia State.

The Coach of the Year was Joan Schockow of Brockport.

1. Plattsburgh Cardinals – After a 6-0 start, the Cardinals are off and running not just on the field but in the polls. In the latest Division III rankings, the Cardinals find themselves sitting 11th in the nation. They are averaging four goals per game and do not appear to be slowing down. They opened conference play with a 5-0 victory over Potsdam and have since posted their fourth shutout of the young season. The Cardinals are led by head coach Karen Waterbury. The key returners are junior forward Helen Giroux and junior midfielder Emily Riely, both of which were first team All-SUNYAC players last season as sophomores. Key game: Oct. 3 at Cortland. If the Cardinals escape the Crown City with a big win they should be in the driver’s seat.

2. Cortland Red Dragons -The Red Dragons are off to a flying 7-0 start, allowing just two goals in seven games including five straight shutouts. In the conference opener the Red Dragons downed Oswego State 2-0. Cortland is lead by head coach Heidi Woodcock. The Red Dragons return first team All-SUNYAC goalie, junior Pam Monnier, along with third team All-SUNYAC junior defenseman Laura Boucher. Key game: Oct. 16 at Geneseo. The first of four consecutive road trips for the Red Dragons; to keep their title hopes alive it will be critical to set the tone in road opener.

3. Oneonta Red Dragons – Fresh off a clean sweep of the SUNYAC a year ago, the Red Dragons are primed and ready to repeat. Off to another fast start, the Red Dragons are 4-1-1 and 1-0 in the SUNYAC, posting three shutouts. For a repeat to take place, the Red Dragons will have to navigate one of the toughest conference schedules, which includes four straight road trips against three of the top five teams from last season. Also, they look to replace the conference Player of the Year, Christine Marra. The Red Dragons are led by head coach Liz McGrail and anchored by two third team All-SUNYAC conference defenders from a year ago, senior Melissa VandenBergh and junior Erin Boyle. Key game: Oct. 3 at Brockport, a rematch of the conference tournament championship game a year ago, when the Red Dragons won on penalty kicks. The Golden Eagles will be looking for some redemption, and a loss could set the young Red Dragons into a tailspin.

4. Brockport Golden Eagles – The Golden Eagles are out of the gates at 4-1-1 and 1-0 in the SUNYAC. Fresh off a conference tournament runner-up finish a year ago, the Golden Eagles look to 2009 to bring what eluded them a year ago. Led by last year’s Coach of the Year Joan Schockow, the Golden Eagles return two first team all-conference players, senior forward Jessica VanAllen and senior midfielder Nicole Gibaud. Key game: Sept. 25 at Plattsburgh. If the Golden Eagles hope to reclaim last season’s glory, a big road win up north against the 11th-ranked Cardinals would be a huge step.

5. Geneseo Blue Knights – The Blue Knights are poised and ready to make a run deep into the SUNYAC tournament. As a team loaded with veterans, the Blue Knights take aim at the ultimate prize. The Blue Knights are 5-2 and 0-1 in conference play following a tough loss to Brockport. Geneseo is led by head coach Nate Wiley. Returning to the Blue Knights are senior midfielder Stephanie Bergin, a second team all-conference player, and senior midfielder Melissa Beale, a third team all-conference selection. Key game: Sept. 26 at Plattsburgh. If the Blue Knights want to make a statement, a win against the 11th-ranked Cardinals would be a win that could shake up the SUNYAC.

6. New Paltz Hawks – The Hawks head into the ‘09 campaign with high hopes. A playoff team a year ago, they look to refocus after a slow 3-2-2 start, including an 0-1 conference record. Coming off a tough 1-0 loss to the defending champions, the Hawks will be looking to find a way to rebound. The Hawks are coached by Colleen Bruley. On the field they are led by sophomore midfielder Samantha Abravanel and freshman netminder Stephanie Vega. Key Game: Oct. 23 against Oswego State. You have to be able to win the big ones at home, and it doesn’t get much bigger than a late October game against a team jockeying for a postseason berth.

7. Oswego State Lakers – Here we go, Lakers fans. I am putting the Lakers on the outside looking in. The Lakers are off to a rocky start at 4-3 and 0-1 in the SUNYAC. Having dropped their first conference game of the year, the Lakers look to find a few points here and there to get back on track. However, the schedule leaves them with a daunting four-game road trip to close out the year. The Lakers are lead by head coach Brian McGrane. Two third team all-conference seniors will lead the Lakers in their 2009 campaign: forward Tricia Sullivan and defenseman Brooke Sherman. Key game: Oct. 23 at New Paltz. If the Lakers successfully navigate the early portion of the conference schedule, this could be a game in late October that propels them to their first playoff appearance since 2005.

8. Fredonia Blue Devils – The Blue Devils look to bounce back to the postseason after missing out by a game last year. They are off to a 4-2-1 start, including a 1-0 record in conference play. The Blue Knights are coached by Chris Case. The SUNYAC freshman of the year and first team all-conference forward Reilly Condidorio returns for her sophomore campaign. Key game: October 10 at Oswego. This is a game late in the year that could have playoff implications.

9. Buffalo State Bengals – The Bengals are 2-2-3 and 0-1 in the SUNYAC. They are led by head coach Nicholas Demarsh and return first team all-conference junior forward Barb Kiliszek, as well as second team all-conference senior defenseman Kelley Reuter. Key Game: September 25 at New Paltz. Points are critical and early points are huge.

10. Potsdam Bears – A team that is no stranger to the bottom half of the standings looks to ‘09 as a stepping stone to 2010. Although the Bears are off to a quick start at 6-1, they are 0-1 in the conference. People are still wondering where this Bears team is heading, considering they are outscoring their opponents 30-5 in their first seven contests. However, the SUNYAC provides too many tough games for the Bears. Potsdam is coached by Tim Moody, and leading the offensive onslaught are senior forward Cortney Poirier and sophomore midfielder Dedra Palmer. Key game: September 25 at Geneseo. If they take the season one game at a time, who knows? This may lead to a Cinderella story.

Predictions

Player of the Year-Helen Giroux -Plattsburgh
Rookie of the Year-Stephanie Vega –New Paltz
Coach of the Year-Karen Waterbury-Plattsburgh

Last season, the Geneseo Blue Knights won the regular season SUNYAC title, while the Cortland Red Dragons claimed the conference tournament championship.

The Player of the Year award went to Plattsburgh’s John San Filippo.
Rookie of the Year honors were claimed by Geneseo’s Ian Mort.
Mike Mooney of Geneseo took home Coach of the Year.

1. Geneseo Blue Knights – The Blue Knights roll into the SUNYAC with a chip on their shoulders. After a heartbreaking loss on penalty kicks in the semifinals of the conference tournament to Cortland, the Blue Knights enter conference play with a record of 3-2-1. The Blue Knights are led by last year’s Coach of the Year Mike Mooney. Pacing the Blue Knight attack is last year’s Freshman of the Year, forward Ian Mort, and first team all-conference senior defender Joey Mort. Key game: Oct. 16 at Cortland. This rematch in late October could go a long way in determining the conference champion.

2. Plattsburgh Cardinals – Plattsburgh is off to a fast start at 5-1-1, and enters conference play on a four-game win streak. They are lead by head coach Chris Waterbury. They lost John San Filippo, last year’s SUNYAC Player of the Year, but return junior midfielder Chris Taylor, a first team all-conference selection, and sophomore forward Pat Shaughnessy, a second team all-conference selection. Key game: Sept. 26 at Geneseo. This game has a late October feel in late September. The winner takes the driver’s seat in the conference.

3. Oneonta Red Dragons – The Red Dragons might have the most favorable schedule in the conference, as they play host to Geneseo, Plattsburgh and Brockport. Out of the gates at 6-1 and 1-0 in the conference, the Red Dragons get set for their chance to make a statement. They are led by head coach Iain Byrne. Pacing the Red Dragon attack are junior forward and second team all-conference selection Gary Laronde, and sophomore forward and third team all-conference selection Evan Jedynak. Key game: Oct. 2 against Geneseo. There’s no place like home, especially for a primetime game. The Red Dragons must defend their house in a game that could make or break their title hopes.

4. Brockport Golden Eagles – The Golden Eagles look to ‘09 to help erase memories of their conference championship loss in 2008. Off to a rocky start at 2-2-2, the Golden Eagles will be looking at SUNYAC play as the start of a new season. The Golden Eagles are coached by Gary LaPietra. They return first team all-conference selection, senior forward Brad Lefort, as well as second team all-conference selection, senior midfielder Steve Abgarian. Key game: Sept. 25 against Plattsburgh. This is sure to be a huge conference opener for the Golden Eagles as they look to use home field advantage to re-energize.

5. Cortland Red Dragons – The Red Dragons look to repeat their Cinderella story from a year ago, when they rode their conference tournament championship into the second round of the national playoffs. But after a couple of tough losses this group of Red Dragons is learning how to win the close ones. With a mark of 2-4-1 and 1-0 in conference play the Red Dragons look to build off the overtime win and head back to the postseason. They are led by head coach Dwight Hornibrook. Returning to anchor the Red Dragon defense is junior Matt Kutzer, a second team all-conference selection. Key game: Oct. 24 against New Paltz. Home games are important; especially during the last week of the season with a potential postseason trip on the line.

6. Oswego State Lakers – Here they are, folks. The waters have been choppy so far, but there is a good chance it could clear up. I know they haven’t found the net yet, but this team is potent. Having made the conference tournament in three of the last four years, the Lakers should be dancing again. They dropped their conference opener to Cortland, 1-0, in OT to fall to 0-6 and 0-1 in conference. The Lakers are led by head coach Robert Friske. Third team all-conference selection Felipe Cavalcanti returns for his junior campaign. Key game: Oct. 2 at Plattsburgh. This is the first of four consecutive conference road trips for the Lakers, who need to set the tone and escape the north country with a big win.

7. New Paltz Hawks – The path to the playoffs is uphill even though the Hawks play host to the conference’s upper class. They are off to a fine overall start at 4-2, but sit at 0-1 in the conference. The Hawks will be looking to crash the party after three consecutive eight-place SUNYAC finishes. They are led by head coach Eric Watson. Third team all-conference selection sophomore midfielder Tom Garafola looks to pace the Hawks. Key Game: Oct. 23 at Oswego State. This is a potentially intriguing matchup in late October.

8. Buffalo State Bengals – The Bengals are 4-3-1 and 0-0-1 in the conference following a 0-0 tie with Fredonia. The Bengals will take all the points they can get as they look to make a playoff push. They are led by coach Rudy Pompert. Zach Eastman, a senior defender and second team all-conference selection, and Stephen Galante, senior midfielder and third team all-conference selection, look to pace the Bengals. Key game: Sept. 25 against New Paltz. Points are at a premium. The Bengals need to grab points early and often to have a chance.

9. Fredonia Blue Devils – The Blue Devils are 3-3-1 and 0-0-1 in conference play. The outlook is optimistic for this group, led by head coach P.J. Gondek. The Blue Devils return three third-team all-conference selections, senior forward Ryan O’Donnell, junior forward Peter Dagel and sophomore midfielder Eli Lubberts. Key game: Sept. 26 against New Paltz. This is a game with the potential to shake the standings.

10. Potsdam Bears – The Bears enter conference play at 2-4-1. They are led by head coach Joe Vaadi. Billy Sahler, a sophomore midfielder, paces the Bears’ attack. Key game: Sept. 25 at Geneseo. An upset here could instill a lot of confidence in this bunch.

Predictions
Player of the Year – Steve Abgarian – Brockport
Rookie of the Year – Eric Fortier- Oneonta State
Coach of the Year – Chris Waterbury- Plattsburgh State