It appeared from the opening whistle that the SUNY Oneonta men’s soccer team was determined to let nothing stand in its way of getting back to the NCAA Division III national championship weekend. When the final whistle sounded, the Red Dragons overpowered Brandeis, 3-0, to win the sectional championship and, with it, punch their ticket to Kansas City, Mo., in two weeks.
“Another great game,” said coach Iain Byrne afterward. “Brandeis is a quality team and a classy group of men. It was a physical game and I thought we controlled the tempo of the game.”
As has been the case all year long, Oneonta (21-0-2) came out attacking. In the third minute, sophomore Hans Purtell played a cross from the left flank that ended up on the head of senior Justin Rivera at the left post. Rivera sent the ball across the front of the goal, where junior Jake Sutherland just missed getting a foot on it.
Five minutes later, it was Sutherland who gave Oneonta a 1-0 lead. Classmate Dylan Williams made a great through pass to Sutherland, who was able to get a touch on it and break free from his defender. Once he had control of the ball, Sutherland slid a shot between the legs of Brandeis keeper Joe Graffy. It was Sutherland’s 11th goal of the season and his second straight game-winning goal. He leads the team with seven game-winners this season.
“When we score early we are that much more dangerous,” said Williams.
Dangerous they were, as the Red Dragons could have easily added a couple more goals to their ledger, but had to settle for a 1-0 lead at halftime.
“I thought we were tremendous in the first half,” said Byrne. “We brought the game to them. When we scored the second goal we instinctively sat back and defended, but then the third goal came and it was in hand.”