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Oneonta headed to D-III Final Four

By ONEONTA STATE ATHLETICS

CANTON, N.Y. - When Oneonta State won the SUNYAC championship back on Nov. 5, the motto became six more wins.  Well after its thrilling, come-from-behind, 2-1 win against Rutgers-Camden Sunday, the motto now is, “two more wins.”

The men's soccer team won its 14th straight game today in thrilling fashion as junior Alex Shkreli (Bedford/Fox Lane) banged home a loose ball in the box in the 107th minute to lift the Red Dragons to the victory.  Oneonta will now join Calvin, Ohio Wesleyan and Montclair State in San Antonio during the weekend of Dec. 2-3 to play for a national title.  The Red Dragons will face Calvin in its national semifinal with the game time to be announced in the coming days.

Shkreli's goal came off of an indirect kick after a foul was called about 25 yards out.  Senior Nick Lange (Freeville/Dryden) serviced the ball into the box that was headed toward the goal by classmate Raymond Fitzpatrick (Garden City/Garden City).  The shot deflected off the left post and headed toward the center of the box where Shkreli was waiting to put the ball in the open goal.

“It was a brilliant weekend,” said head coach Iain Byrne of his team's performance in the two games.  “This is a culmination of a lot of effort from so many people.”

Byrne added, “We dominated most of the match and we were rewarded for our efforts.  We showed great heart all year and especially today.”

“We started off the tournament with one goal and that was to make it to the final four,” said Shkreli.  “We played our hearts out and we showed what Oneonta State soccer is about this weekend.”

With the game locked in a scoreless tie, the Rutgers (19-3-2) finally broke through in the 53rd minute as leading scorer Mitch Grotti notched his team-leading 19th goal of the season.  Grotti was able to handle a loose ball where he was able to turn and free himself to fire a shot that went over the Oneonta keeper's head into the back of the goal.

Oneonta nearly tied the score in the 66th minute off of a direct kick.  Junior Dan Josepher (Manorville/Eastport South Manor) sent a ball along the ground that was not handled by the Rutgers keeper cleanly.  On the loose ball, Fitzpatrick hit the loose ball just wide of the left post.

Fitzpatrick would make the most of his next opportunity in the 77th minute on a loose ball that the Rutgers defense couldn't clear.  On a counter attack, junior Eric Fortier (Pleasant Valley/Arlington) broke free in the box to the left of the goal and sent a ball across that was knocked around in front of the goal.  It was Fitzpatrick that followed the play in and blasted the loose ball by the keeper for the tying goal.

“For us seniors, the journey continues,” said Fitzpatrick after the game.  “Our dream has become a reality and it's indescribable.  This team has proven time-and-time again that it has heart and this weekend we showed it.”

Oneonta had all of the dangerous opportunities in the latter half of regulation and in both overtime periods.  They finished the match with a 26-14 advantage in shots including 13 that were on goal.

The ball was mostly in the Rutgers end of the field for the opening 15 minutes.  Oneonta had some looks, but nothing dangerous as the Scarlet Raptor defense held the Red Dragons in check.

The first real dangerous opportunity for either squad came in the 18th minute.  Sophomore Taylor McGrory had the ball inside the box to the left of the goal for the Raptors and he sent a ball across the front of Oneonta keeper Maxwell Siegelman (Roslyn/Roslyn) that hit the right post and deflected out.  On the follow, Grotti took a shot that sailed over the goal.

Seven minutes later, Rutgers sophomore Zaiere Putmon rifled a shot that hit the left post and, on the ensuing action, Grotti sent a pass into the box that was headed over the goal.

The rest of the half was back-and-forth between the two teams with not many threatening scoring chances for either side.  The two teams were deadlocked at 0-0 at the break.

This is Oneonta's first journey into the Div. III soccer tournament and it is making the most of it to say the least.  Back in 1972, the Red Dragons played in the NCAA College Division national championship game.  Prior to qualifying for this year's tournament, the men had not been in the NCAA tournament since 1975 and, at that time, they played in the Div. I tournament.

Byrne said, “It's great to have Oneonta on the national stage and we look forward to representing our school in San Antonio.”

Shkreli concluded, “We have some work ahead of us, but we'll be ready when they blow the whistle on Dec. 2.”

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