Bobcats roll into YSCC final four

PAUL SMITHS – It’s on to New Hampshire for the Paul Smith’s College men’s soccer team after the Bobcats rolled to a 7-2 victory over Vermont Tech in Monday’s Yankee Small College Conference play-in game.

Paul Smith’s, which is enjoying its most successful season in men’s soccer history at the school improved to 12-1 with the win, and now plays Saturday in Concord, N.H. in a semifinal match in the YSCC final four championship tournament.

After defeating the Green Knights twice this season in games decided by a single goal, including last week’s 2-1 overtime victory, the Bobcats left little doubt early that they would advance in the postseason. Colin Byrne put Paul Smith’s on the board 10 minutes into the match and the Bobcats piled on three more goals before halftime for a commanding 4-0 lead at intermission.

Tony Stuart then lifted Paul Smith’s to a 5-0 edge early in the second half when he headed home a cross from Saranac Lake High School graduate Max Calderone. In a flurried finish, both teams each scored two goals during the final 10 minutes of the match.

“This game allowed us to get some playing time for the guys on the team who haven’t had a lot recently,” Paul Smith’s coach Bryan Mallette said. “The outcome of this match was decided in the first 10 or 15 minutes.”

Monday’s win comes on the heels of the Bobcats 3-2 overtime victory Friday over rival SUNY ESF, a team Paul Smith’s had never beaten until this season.

“The difference today was after a big emotional win over ESF, our guys believe they can beat anybody,” Mallette said. “We’re fortunate right now. We kind of have the whole package going on. That’s what we’d like to think anyways.”

Stuart and Alex Roach each found the back of the net twice to lead Paul Smith’s, and Steve Rathbun and Alex Dalley also had a goal apiece for the winners.

The Bobcats scored from just about everywhere on the field against the Green Knights, who saw their season end with a 3-11 record. Byrne buried the first goal of the game when he blasted a shot from 30 yards out, and Roache then gave Paul Smith’s a 2-0 edge at the 20-minute mark when he fired a low shot into the short side of the net from just outside the penalty area.

Rathbun pushed the lead to 3-0 with 25 minutes gone in the match when he headed in a pass from Jesse Fenlon for his 16th goal of the season, and Dalley made it a 4-0 score seven minutes later when he chipped a shot over the head of Vermont Tech keeper Darian Calverley.

Stuart all but sealed the victory five minutes into the second half when he headed home a beautiful cross from Calderone, who lofted a high pass into the middle of the box from the right corner of the field.

“I’m having as much fun as I’ve ever had playing soccer,” said Calderone, a sophomore and a native of Paul Smiths. “Chemistry is the main part of our team. Every player on this team is very solid.”

Midfielder Bryan Cole netted both goals for Vermont Tech. He scored his first with 10 minutes left in the match on a direct kick. After Stuart and Roach answered with goals for the ‘Cats, Cole rounded out the scoring when he sent a low shot past Paul Smith’s goalie Ryan Little with just 30 seconds left on the clock.

“After two one-goal games with Paul Smith’s, we knew this one was either going to be tight or lopsided,” first-year Vermont Tech coach Ken White said. “Paul Smith’s is a deep, physical team, and we just don’t have the players. I had two guys on the bench.

“I’m really proud of our players,” White continued. “We had a gallant season. Every guy on this team gave everything they had.”

Fenlon and Roache finished with two assists for Paul Smith’s, while Rathbun, Dalley, Mark Wrigley, Jeff Schmidt and Anthony Ventello added single assists. Paul Smith’s outshot Vermont Tech 26-9. Calverley had six saves for Vermont Tech and Little recorded two stops in nets for the ‘Cats.

The winner of this weekend’s YSCC tournament will receive and automatic berth in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Championships being held Oct. 30-Nov. 2 in Charleston, W.V. Even if Paul Smith’s comes up short of winning the YSCC title, the team is in the running for an at-large bid.

“We’ve never been to the nationals,” Mallette said. “Our goal all along has been getting to West Virginia.”