OSWEGO — It’s been five years since the Oswego State men’s soccer team has seen postseason action.
This season, however, the Lakers locked up the fifth seed for the SUNY Athletic Conference playoffs, which sets up a 1 p.m. quarterfinal matchup against fourth-seeded Cortland (4-4-1 SUNYAC, 8-6-2 overall) this Saturday.
Oswego State will get its first taste of the playoff atmosphere since the 2014 season. In 2014, the Lakers had a 5-11-2 mark and lost 2-1 to Brockport in overtime in a SUNYAC play-in game.
During this year’s regular season, the Lakers went 4-4-1 in the SUNYAC and 9-7-1 overall. The team clinched a playoff berth following its 2-0 loss to Plattsburgh on Oct. 19.
“It’s been a really fun and enjoyable year. The group has brought intensity and passion to training and games each day,” Oswego State head coach Dan Kane said.
“We really played well in most of our games. We’ve avoided the inconsistency that has turned us away (from postseason contention) the past couple of years.”
Oswego State went on a rough stretch to end the regular season, losing three-straight games on the road to Plattsburgh (2-0), Fredonia (1-0 in OT) and Buffalo State (2-0).
The Lakers also missed out on a chance to host a playoff game in the opening round.
Oswego State finished the regular season in a three-way tie in the conference, with the Lakers, Cortland and Brockport each finishing with a 4-4-1 SUNYAC record. Brockport was eliminated from contention, but Cortland snatched the fourth seed and a home playoff game since they had a slightly better overall record percentage than Oswego State (.563 over .559).
“It definitely stung a little bit,” Kane said. “We would’ve loved to allow the seniors to have one more home game. We had an opportunity to do that, but we came up short. Those games felt like playoff games.”
Kane, in his third season with Oswego State, said he is confident about his team’s matchup against the Red Dragons Saturday. The Lakers and Dragons played to a 1-1 double-overtime tie earlier this season. Last season, Cortland handed Oswego State a 4-0 loss on its home turf.
“We feel great about the matchup,” Kane said. “(Cortland) is a little bit beat up, but I think they’re getting back to being healthy. They have some real talent on their team, but our guys take pride in our cohesion, ability to sacrifice our bodies, be disciplined and put teams under pressure.”
Kane is looking for senior captains Anthony Paris and Jack Van Pelt to step up in a big way by giving the Lakers an advantage in a playoff atmosphere and to keep their younger players focused. Van Pelt has two goals and three assists on the season, and Paris has notched two goals.
“They are the heart and soul of this team. They do a lot for us,” Kane said. “When it comes to their defensive efforts, connecting passes and winning tackles, they are always there. We’ll have to rely on their leadership on Saturday.”
Senior Caleb Asamoah and freshman Steven Rojas, respectively leading the team in goals (8) and assists (5), are two of the Lakers’ solid playmakers this season.
“When Caleb is isolated, he has some real ability in one-on-one situations to make guys miss and create some numerical advantages for us,” Kane said.
He added, “(Caleb and Steven) together is a tough combination for most teams to deal with.”
Despite posting an 8-7-1 record in net, junior goalkeeper Brian Terra has strung together clutch moments for the Lakers. Through 16 starts, Terra has allowed 16 goals (0.97 goals-against average) while compiling 72 saves (81 percent save percentage).
“There are zero questions about Terra. He’s been consistent all year long,” Kane said. “He’s had several big saves for us when we needed them the most. He’s provided confidence in our defense.
“Cortland is really good on set pieces. For a smaller goalkeeper, his timing and ability to take away opponents’ set pieces is a huge attribute.”
The Dragons will be on the attack against the Lakers’ defense. Anthony Ruggiero leads Cortland in goals (7), with Jake Keller and Sam Fuller each tallying three goals and two assists. Miguel Tunas has the most assists on the team with five.
Braden Melveney and Sean Kelly have shared goalie duties for Cortland. They have allowed a combined 17 goals with 69 total saves (80 percent save percentage).
“There are moments where we will have to defend really well collectively,” Kane said. “If we’re able to string some passes together, we’re going to find ourselves in good spots on the field.”
The winner of this matchup faces second-seeded Plattsburgh 1 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinal round.