Mighty Oaks, ’Cats split in Barkeater Cup battles

PAUL SMITHS – For the fourth straight year, the SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry and Paul Smith’s College men’s and women’s soccer teams when toe-to-toe with the Barkeater Cup on the line.

Hosting a Friday doubleheader under the lights, the Bobcats saw results that were exactly the opposite of what took place a year ago.

In the opening game, the Paul Smith’s women’s team fell short of their defense of the trophy in a 3-0 shutout loss to the Mighty Oaks. And in the nightcap, the Bobcats men claimed the trophy by rallying for a 3-2 victory.

The SUNY ESF women, who are the top-ranked United States Collegiate Athletic Association team in the nation, scored the lone goal of the opening half just three minutes into the contest, and then added two more to improve to 9-0-2.

Despite the setback, Paul Smith’s women’s head coach Dan Burke said the Bobcats were pleased with their effort.

“I thought the girls played extremely hard all 90 minutes,” Burke said. “Our girls weren’t very disappointed. We played the top team in the country, and ESF just got a couple of nice goals. I think that was the difference.”

With the loss, the Paul Smith’s women’s team fell to 8-3 overall. The Bobcats now head into the Yankee Small College Conference playoffs. They received a bye in the opening round after clinched the West Division’s top seed with a 5-1 record.

Friday’s nightcap was a thriller that saw the Paul Smith’s men draw first blood and then rally late in the second half to triumph.

Steve Rathbun paced Paul Smith’s with two goals, which now makes the senior the nation’s top scorer among USCAA teams. Jeff Schmidt added the other goal for the Bobcats, who improved to 11-1 overall.

Rathbun, who hails from Binghamton, scored the game’s first goal 11 minutes into the contest off an assist by Alex Dailey. It was the lone tally of the opening half.

The Mighty Oaks then took a 2-1 lead, with Kyle Siegel scoring in the 52nd minute and Owen Hennigan finding the back of the net 13 minutes later.

Jeff Schmidt scored the equalizer for Paul Smith’s in the 70th minute with Alex Roache assisting, and Rathbun buried the game-winner, his 14th goal of the season, at the 75-minute mark off a pass from Taylor Young.

“As a coach, you can’t ask for a better group of kids,” Paul Smith’s men’s head coach Bryan Mallett said. “They played their hearts out against a team that had a lot more players and a lot more size. What a win it was.”

The Paul Smith’s men now host a YSCC playoff game Monday against Vermont Tech at 2 p.m.