The successful second half of the men’s soccer season came to an abrupt halt on Saturday, Oct. 31, losing the SUNYAC play-in game against SUNY Geneseo in familiar fashion from a game-winning overtime goal from the Knights.
Geneseo’s Ian Mort scored the game-winner in overtime to send the Knights into the next round of the SUNYAC tournament with a 3-2 victory.
The loss concludes a rollercoaster ride of a season for the Lakers. After being held scoreless and losing their first six games of the season, they stormed back into the conference playoff picture with a 6-3-1 record in their final 10 games. In that stretch, the Lakers outscored conference opponents 18-17.
The contribution in that stretch didn’t come from just the usual suspects. First-year forward Max Guliani, a transfer from Western New England College, had three goals in the final four games, two of which came late in games to give the Lakers the lead or a tie. In the final regular season of the game, Guliani scored with three minutes left against Alfred to give the Lakers a 2-1 win. In the 77th minute of the SUNYAC tournament game against Geneseo, he scored his fourth goal of the year to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Also contributing on the defensive side of the ball was freshman Sean Murphy. The defenseman started 11 games for the Lakers before an injury cut his season short.
"It’s been a total team effort all year long," head coach Robert Friske said.
If the Lakers can take one positive away from the up-and-down season, it’s been the team’s mental and physical toughness. The team’s season could have easily been over after losing the first six in a row. With postseason hopes fading fast, co-captain Dave Baldanza was one of the players who refused to settle for a lost season.
"We could’ve went in any direction after falling to 0-6," Baldanza said. "We said ‘Okay, ECAC’s are out of the question’ and set our sights on the SUNYAC playoffs. We have been pretty relentless this season, the guys have gutted it out."
Baldanza also echoed Friske’s statement that the season has been a true team effort. The trio of captains, Felipe Cavalcanti, Chris Carra and Baldanza, have picked one another up when the others faltered.
At the low point of the losing streak, Cavalcanti and Baldanza were benched in the Sept. 19 game against SUNY Cortland. In that game, Cavalcanti and Baldanza both saw playing time off the bench, but were beat up throughout the game and couldn’t muster any chances on net.
But after Tony Greene’s goal against SUNY Morrisville to snap the goal drought, it has been a tale of two seasons. The Lakers went on to win four consecutive games, including an upset win at Plattsburgh in double overtime.
Even with the loss at Geneseo, the Laker soccer team can take away positives from this season. Their resiliency has been a key factor in the late-season run toward a postseason berth and one of the strong points of a growing team. The loss of seniors Cavalcanti, Baldanza and Carra will hurt the team next season, especially early on, but one of the more comforting aspects of the season has been the emergence of players to fill those roles.
Guliani has shown the potential to be an offensive threat in the conference. Murphy has valuable freshman experience to build on for next season when he returns to anchor a defensive line. Freshman Brandon Carnovale has flashed his foot skills as well as his talent as a playmaking winger for a young and developing Laker squad. This will be a team to watch in the 2010 season, and look for them to once again finish as a SUNYAC contender.