The SUNY New Paltz Men’s Soccer team will begin SUNYAC play this weekend. They face SUNY Cortland on Friday, Sept. 26 at 4 p.m. and SUNY Oswego on Saturday, Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. So far this season, the team holds a record of 3-4 in non-conference games. Now, every shift, every shot and every move means that much more. The path to championship glory for the team begins now.
Recently, the team has won two of their last four non-conference games, defeating Hunter College 4-1, Bard College 3-0 and dropping a 1-0 loss to Vassar College and a 2-0 loss to Union college last night.
Head Coach Gene Ventriglia said that the Hunter College game was “the best game of the season” and that the team played “stretches of beautiful soccer.”
Those games, as well as the other non-conference games they have played this season, have been prepping the team for the challenge SUNYAC play will bring. Although their performances have been largely positive, members of the team know they still have to work hard and change some things to be a better team.
“The team has had flashes of greatness but we have not been able to be sustain that level of play for 90 minutes,” fourth-year captain Alec Johnson said. “We need to work on getting better everyday in practice and this will help with team chemistry”
Third-year defender, Angelo DiMatteo, notices aspects the team can work on as well.
“We have had our weak points early throughout the first three games, however as of late we have been playing at a very high level,” said DiMatteo. “One major improvement we need to make is the attitude we have getting off the bus and the intensity of the first ten minutes of the game. Other than the first ten minutes of the last game, we played outstanding with way more than half the possession.”
The team knows what they are in for with SUNYAC play. Non-conference are useful games to play in order to prepare, but SUNYAC games are what players practice all summer to do well in.
“SUNYAC games are as tough as they get,” Johnson said. “Even tougher than any other game because they mean so much more.”
Ventriglia backed up their statements.
“SUNYAC is an ugly conference, the play is much more physical than non-conference games; they will be tough games,” he said.
With SUNYAC play looming, the Hawks have another season long task ahead of them: integrating new players into the lineup. This season alone, Ventriglia said that the team has 17 new players with seven of them in starting roles. With new additions to teams, sometimes things don’t go as smoothly. But according to Ventriglia and the team, they seem to have fit right in.
“The newcomers to the team have been fantastic, whether they play or not, everyone makes a huge impact. The new guys have contributed in the offensive end of the game the most,” Johnson said.
DiMatteo said the new players are adding an edge to the game that the team needs.
“With new transfer [Jason Gonzalez] up top, we are a much more dangerous team than we have been in the past,” said DiMatteo.
Gonzalez, a third-year forward, has acted as an offensive weapon for the team so far this season. He transferred to New Paltz from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and is tied for the team lead this season in his goal count (three) and assists (two).
In the game against Hunter College alone, new players had an impact. All four goals were scored by new players on the team which including Gonzalez, first-year forward Gino Scardino, first-year midfielder Jon Pugach, and second-year forward Tucker Stern.
With new players fitting in, players getting ready and coaches pushing their players, the team is in good shape for SUNYAC play. They get to begin SUNYAC play at home right here on the Alumni Field.
“Home advantage is huge… having all the fans on your side and defending your own turf is a feeling that cannot be comparable to playing on the road,” DiMatteo said.
Johnson says playing at home definitely gives the team an advantage.
“There is definitely an advantage of opening up at home, of course its always nice not to have to travel but having such a large team we can have all the guys at the game and of course a home crowd is always nice to hear,” said Johnson.
DiMatteo and Johnson said they are specifically looking forward to playing SUNY Cortland. Both are prepared to face a team that defeated them 6-1 in SUNYAC play on Sept. 28, 2013.
“I cannot wait to play Cortland on our home SUNYAC opener. They dismantled us last year and we will be hitting the pitch with a chip on our shoulder for that game,” Johnson said.
DiMatteo said he is looking forward to challenge SUNY Oneonta, whom the Hawks face on Oct. 18 in New Paltz.
“This year Oneonta is 8th in the nation and have a very arrogant, cocky attitude. For that reason I can not wait to show them what we got,” he said.