It was a good weekend for the Oswego State men’s soccer team, as the Lakers defeated a pair of conference opponents to improve their record to 5-6-1 overall and 3-2 in SUNYAC play.
The 2-1 victories over Buffalo State and SUNY Fredonia have the Lakers in a four-way tie for fourth place in the conference, making each game more crucial than the last with the playoffs looming at the end of the month.
Senior forward Jonathan Kuracina netted game-winning goals on both Friday and Saturday.
Oswego State played their way to a big victory on Saturday against Fredonia, with six Lakers being honored before the match on Senior Day. There were dozens of family, friends and alumni in the crowd to support the Laker seniors.
"Just to even play in front of them, never mind win, never mind score, it’s just amazing," Kuracina said.
When the contest got under way Fredonia controlled the attack early by testing the Lakers’ senior goal keeper, Matt Wopperer, with the first two shots on goal of the day.
Oswego State had the first solid scoring opportunity when the Fredonia goal keeper, Bobby McGinnis, came too far out of the net and senior Dean Gaetano corralled the ball for the Lakers about seven yards from the Fredonia net. Gaetano put a shot on net, but defenseman Matt Schroen was able to stop the attempt and send the ball out of harm’s way for the Blue Devils.
Fredonia got on the board first when John Grabowski sent a pass down field and found Ryan O’Donnell at the top of the 18-yard box. O’Donnell beat Wopperer, who came out aggressively to play the ball, in the 25th minute.
O’Donnell nearly found the back of the net again four minutes later when he had control of the ball in a similar position, but sent it a few feet wide right due to good positioning by Wopperer.
In the waning seconds of the first half, Schroen committed a foul on the left side of the 18-yard box, giving the Lakers a free kick from striking distance. Bryan Pacchiana took the kick and sent it into traffic in front of the Fredonia net. The ball was redirected off a Fredonia defender and trickled into the lower right corner of the goal, past a diving McGinnis. The Lakers evened the score at one with 11.7 seconds remaining in the half.
Oswego State carried over the momentum into the second half and it was not long until they took the lead for good. Kuracina was able to chase down a strike headed toward the Fredonia net and beat McGinnis with a perfect touch. The ball drifted perfectly over McGinnis’ outstretched arms and under the crossbar by a slim margin for the Lakers’ second goal.
Initially, Kuracina thought the ball might sail over the net.
"To be honest I thought it was going over," Kuracina said. "I got in behind and I knew I only had one touch; I saw the keeper. I could’ve sworn it was going to hit the bar and come back out, but thank God it went in."
The play from both teams was physical throughout the contest, especially in the second half. During the seven minute span from the 69th to 76th minutes there were five yellow cards issued, three of which belonged to the Lakers.
"They’re one of the top teams in the conference," head coach Bob Friske said. "These games it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, they’re all getting testy."
The Oswego State coaching staff liked what they saw out of their team on Saturday, as the Lakers played their final regular season home game of the year.
"The boys did a great job today," assistant coach Darren Wynne said. "We kept them focused, kept them organized, and Senior Day as well, it’s great to win."
The Lakers had an opportunity to put the game away in the 76th minute when Lucas Pettit stole the ball just past midfield and passed to Jake Honan who was running alongside the play. Honan was one-on-one with a Fredonia defender, but had his shot blocked and ricochet out of bounds.
Oswego State staved off the Blue Devils’ attempt to force overtime, and secured a big victory in the process.
"We want to make the playoffs, we want to make an impact, we want to win the SUNYAC’s," Kuracina said.
The Lakers will finish out the final four games of their regular season on the road, with the nationally ranked Brockport Golden Eagles as the first opponent on Friday, Oct. 22.