The Lakers were entrenched in a five-game losing streak and mathematically eliminated from the playoffs when they welcomed SUNY Cortland (8-4-5) on Saturday. Oswego State had not beaten Cortland since its lone win over the Red Dragons in program history during the 2004 season.
With just two goals scored over the five-game losing skid, it was evident that the Lakers were clearly the large underdog entering the 2012 season’s final conference game.
These seemingly ill-fated factors were proved premature. The Lakers snapped their losing streaks both on the season and against the Red Dragons in a thrilling, 1-0, overtime victory, off of junior captain Nikki Liadka’s game winning shot.
Head coach Brian McGrane admitted that emotions were high before Saturday’s game and that the team was in search of some stimulation after being eliminated from conference tournament contention this season.
“From a mental standpoint, when the season is over, you have to find another motivation,” McGrane said. “Cortland provided that motivation (on Saturday) because despite the one win in program history, due to location and recruiting, they are our rivals. Our competition with them was the motivation.”
The players agreed with that sentiment, as taking on a conference power like Cortland State, on Senior Day no less, was figuratively their season’s championship game.
“I knew it was my last conference game and Cortland is a huge rival so I wanted nothing more than to beat them on my senior day,” senior Carly Olds said. “The last time we beat them was in 2004 and it was the second time in the program’s history so it felt great to break that streak. Something I can remember from my senior year.”
The first and second half were scoreless on both sides, as the two teams combined for just two shot-on-goal attempts during regulation. The speed of the game had an impact on the effectiveness of both teams’ offenses.
“The first and second half of the game went by very quickly, it was pretty evenly matched and it seemed like no team really dominated,” sophomore Bri Dolan said.
“Cortland worked us pretty hard and after regular time had expired I was so tired,” Liadka said. “But the whole game, I just kept thinking that we need to win this game for the seniors.”
The Lakers won the toss heading into overtime and selected the side of the field going with the wind. The successful coin toss paid huge dividends on the free kick that Liadka made to seal the victory. For McGrane, there was little question who would attempt the free kick leading into the 92:00 minute.
“Liadka is someone who has showed ever since she stepped foot on this campus she has believed in herself,” McGrane said. “There was nothing better than for her to have the opportunity to win it for us and for the team to watch her secure the win late in the game like that.”
“When Nikki scored in OT, we were all shocked at first. It seemed to happen in slow motion and took a few seconds to comprehend,” Dolan said. “Then once it hit me I was the happiest I felt all season.”
Liadka notes that she barely recognized what she had done in the moments following her third game-winning goal of the season.
“Amanda Heberger kept saying that we are going to score in the first two minutes of overtime,” Liadka said. “When I first took the kick I thought the goalie had caught it and I turned around waiting for her to punt it. It was not until Taylor Romeo started running at me screaming that I realized it went in. Everyone was really excited.”
For seniors like Olds, the moment was the perfect close to their careers.
“It was an awesome feeling to beat them,” Olds said. “Getting the win in sudden death overtime made it even better because I was on edge the entire time.”
The Lakers’ season ended Sunday following an 8-0 victory against Cobleskill State. The Lakers’ final scheduled game against Clarkson University for Wednesday was cancelled due to weather. Oswego State finishes the season at 7-9 (3-6, SUNYAC) and on a two-game winning streak.