Before the 2013 season started, Oswego State women’s soccer coach and SUNYAC coach of the year Brian McGrane stated that this year’s team was the best one he has had in his seven years as coach. The Lakers proved him right.
They had one of their best seasons in recent memory, qualifying for the SUNYAC tournament for the first time since 2002. In the process, they won 10 of 17 conference games.
It was only the second time since 2000 that the Lakers recorded double-digit wins – the other being in 2011 when they won the ECAC championship.
Five of those wins were against conference opponents, a feat Oswego State had not achieved since the 2003 season.
“I think the SUNYAC respects us a little bit more,” McGrane said.
“We hadn’t had much success for a long time. Not just in my time, but for 10, 15 years. I think the conference is slowly figuring out that Oswego should be respectable again and will be a difficult matchup.”
There were some question marks surrounding the Lakers entering the season. They were a young team with 13 new freshmen. A preseason injury to senior defender and co-captain Raquel Vescio forced McGrane to start three freshmen on the defensive line.
There was a battle for the No. 1 goalkeeper job between senior Emily Varonier and sophomore Alyssa Glasshagel, who eventually won the job.
Despite the uncertainty, the Lakers cruised through the non-conference portion of its schedule, winning its first game against SUNYIT 6-0 and jumping out to a 6-2 start overall.
McGrane gave credit to the 11 returning players he had for keeping the new players level-headed.
“I thought our upperclassmen, our seniors, did a really good job managing our younger players,” McGrane said.
Senior and co-captain Nikki Liadka was one of the most prominent leaders. She scored 10 goals in the first nine games, four of them in the opener against SUNYIT. Liadka will graduate fourth all-time for women’s soccer in scoring (86 points) and goals (46 goals). Despite not recording a point the last eight games of the season, Liadka was still No. 1 on her team in goals scored with 10.
McGrane attributed Liadka’s slump to a combination of her having to play multiple positions and good scouting.
“Everybody knows who she is,” McGrane said. “They’ll put multiple players on her and it takes a really special player to try to get goals that way. It didn’t help her that we moved her around quite a bit. We’d start her up top, then drop her into the midfield. When we’d get a lead, we’d put her at right back, so it’s not a shock that she wasn’t as successful as she was at the beginning of the season.”
Liadka was named to the All-Conference third team and has earned that accolade every year she has been at Oswego State.
The Lakers saw a variety of offensive weapons emerge throughout the course of the season. Junior midfielder Tia Segretto, a transfer from Cayuga Community College, led the Lakers with 21 points (nine goals, three assists). In the process, Segretto was named SUNYAC Offensive Player of the Week twice and earned a spot on the All-Conference Second Team.
The Lakers will have two first-team representatives in sophomore midfielder Bailey Waterbury and junior defender Georgia Traynor.
Waterbury was tied for the most assists in the SUNYAC with seven. She anchored the Lakers’ aggressive midfield, which scored 14 of the team’s 31 goals.
Along with Liadka and Vescio, Traynor helped lead the young Lakers. Before Vescio’s return, Traynor was the only non-freshman on the Lakers defensive line. She scored an important goal against The College at Brockport on Oct. 18 in a double-overtime win for the Lakers. The crucial win helped the Lakers secure a spot in the playoffs.
Traynor’s partner at central defense, Katie Schulz, started all 17 games for the Lakers as a freshman. Most of those starts were at the sweeper position, where she was often matched up against opposing teams’ best scorers.
“She was awesome,” McGrane said. “As a freshman, to play center back is difficult.”
The Lakers’ first SUNYAC game against New Paltz on Sept. 27 was a milestone victory. The Lakers defeated the Hawks for the first time in four years with a 1-0 win. After missing seven games, Vescio made her return to the line up to add some experience and depth to the back four. Glasshagel was named the starting goalkeeper after a long competition with Varonier.
Though she only played in three games the previous year as a freshman, Glasshagel was prepared to compete with the veteran Varonier, who is in the top 10 all-time in wins, shutouts and goals against average for the Lakers. Glasshagel posted a 6-5 record with a .773 save percentage, 1.58 goals against average, and 61 saves for the season.
After a 4-1 loss to SUNY Oneonta, the eventual winners of the SUNYAC, the Lakers faced off against SUNY Plattsburgh at home on Oct. 4. The game held significance not just because of the rivalry that exists between the two schools, but also because of family ties. Cardinals head coach Karen Waterbury is the mother of the Lakers’ midfielder. The Lakers defeated Plattsburgh 2-0. Waterbury assisted Segretto on the game’s first and game-winning goal.
The Lakers then fell 2-0 to SUNY Potsdam before losing 1-0 in overtime against Buffalo State.
“We gave up bad goals,” McGrane said. “As much as I was satisfied with our play, if you don’t get the result at home, it’s frustrating. Those are two games that stick out to me that hurt.”
After a 2-1, come-from-behind win against SUNY Fredonia on Oct. 12, the Lakers faced a do-or-die weekend in Rochester against Brockport and SUNY Geneseo.
After defeating the Golden Eagles of Brockport, 3-2, on Oct. 18, the Lakers outlasted the Knights, 2-1, the following day. With the two wins, the Lakers clinched its first playoff berth in 11 years.
“I thought our weekend in Rochester showed a lot about our team,” McGrane said. “That’s when we came together the most as a team and realized that if we don’t get results then it’s going to be an uphill battle to get into the postseason. I think the players really bought into what we were doing and realized that we’re a pretty good team. We’re not just ok, but we’re pretty good.”
A 5-1 loss to SUNY Cortland dropped the Lakers to the No. 5 seed in the SUNYAC tournament, forcing them to travel to Brockport for their first playoff game in a decade.
It was in Brockport on Nov. 2 that the Lakers’ resurgent season came to an end, despite a late comeback attempt. Second half goals by Brockport’s Katie Gildemeyer and Chelsea Stahl secured the Golden Eagles a 2-1 win and a ticket to the semifinals.
Though the Lakers outshot Brockport, 15-9, Oswego State came up short. McGrane said he was proud of his team’s performance despite the loss.
“We had more opportunities, we had more possession, we played a lot harder,” McGrane said. “At the end of the day, we did what we needed to do to win. Unfortunately in soccer, the better team doesn’t always win. The two goals that they scored were two typical goals over our goalie’s head. We were slow to close down space and we just didn’t defend well in those two incidences.”
Though their playoff appearance ended quickly, the Lakers are set to be frequent visitors to the SUNYAC Tournament over the next few years. Only four seniors are graduating at end of this year, and the Lakers are looking to bring another large freshman class next season.
“We probably have a list of 60 or 70 kids,” McGrane said.
McGrane and the Lakers are hoping the large recruiting class will lessen the blow of losing players like Vescio and Liadka.
“Those two have been a great staple of our program,” McGrane said. “It happens every year. We lose players every year. It’ll be difficult but we got a few kids that we’re looking at that, combined, can top that. Losing players to graduations is something we know ahead of time and have tried to recruit.”
The hope for the Lakers is the players that are currently on the team can pick up where Liadka will be leaving off.
“It’ll be a tough thing to lose Nikki, because she could put balls in the back of the net, but we have some players that we feel pretty good about, Tia [Segretto] and [Nicole Perniciaro] and a few other players we’re looking at,” McGrane said.
With over 20 returning players and large group of upperclassmen, next season could be the year the Lakers win their first playoff game in McGrane’s tenure.
“This is the best team we’ve probably had here in a long time,” McGrane said. “I think with the staff we have returning and the players we have returning, we’ll be pretty consistent over the next bunch of years.”