Erik Bascome, Sports Editor
SUNY Oneonta has one of the top 15 Division III athletics programs in the country and this year they have continued their recent run of excellence. From soccer, to track, to basketball and more, SUNY Oneonta’s student-athletes have achieved all sorts of individual and team accomplishments.
The Red Dragons women’s soccer team put together a fantastic season in which they finished 2nd in the regular season SUNYAC standings with a record of 15-4-2 overall (7-1-1 in conference). The team went on to make a run to the SUNYAC Finals where they faced off on the road against the only team to beat them in divisional play during the regular season: Buffalo State.
It was a well-fought battle between the top two teams in the conference with the Red Dragons scoring a go-ahead goal in the 84th minute, when senior Kayla Distin jumped on a rebound off the post and drove it past the keeper.
The team added an insurance goal in the 87th minute as Kayla Ceschini scored unassisted after beating her defender down the left side of the pitch.
After all was said and done, the women walked away with the 13th SUNYAC title in SUNY Oneonta history and received an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament (the team’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2013).
They would go on to lose in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Carnegie Melon in a 1-0 overtime thriller.
Some of the team’s star players were also recognized for their individual accomplishments and named to the SUNYAC All-Conference Team. Seniors Erica Berry and Rori Stark were named to First Team All-Conference, while seniors Jessica Lysen and Kayla Distin were named to the Second Team All-Conference.
The women weren’t the only ones making waves in the soccer world this season as the men’s team finished 1st in the SUNYAC standings with a record of 19-3-2 overall (8-1 in conference).
They were able to maintain their dominant form into the postseason as they cruised to their fourth SUNYAC title in the past five years with a 3-0 victory over Brockport in the final game.
The Red Dragons rode their momentum straight into the NCAA tournament where they won their first four games by a combined score of 12-0.
On a 10-game winning streak at the time, the team traveled to Kansas City, Missouri to take on Amherst College in the NCAA Division III Tournament National Semifinal.
After two overtime periods and 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, Oneonta’s championship dreams came down to penalty kicks.
Amherst got out to a quick 2-0 lead and the Red Dragons just weren’t able to claw their way back, losing 4-3 in the shootout.
While they did fall short in the end, it was a tremendous year for the team and for Division III East Region Coach of the Year, Iain Byrne.
Another standout in the fall was the women’s cross country team, who finished second in the SUNYAC Championships to SUNY Geneseo, and had four runners place in the top-15 for the first time in school history. This is the third time in a row that SUNY Oneonta has placed second in the conference finals.
Senior Alyssa Drapeau finished fourth overall, improving upon last year’s finish by three spots, and earned recognition as a SUNYAC Cross Country Hall of Famer. Drapeau is only the fourth woman in school history to receive this honor, the first since Danielle Kennedy in 2011.
The team was able to do just that, taking care of business with a second place finish at the NCAA Atlantic Region meet, and earning their third consecutive NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships appearance.
The Red Dragons took an enormous step forward this year at the national championships meet, finishing sixth after a 24th place finish the year before.
The charge was led by senior Alyssa Drapeau and junior Mary Kate Bida, who finished 18th and 23rd respectively, and received NCAA Division III Cross Country All-American honors.
The men’s cross country team also had a strong season, finishing third in the SUNYAC Championships. However, a stumble in the NCAA Atlantic Region meet led to a 10th place finish and no NCAA tournament berth for the team.
Although the group ended the year disappointed in their performance, they were anything but disappointed in junior Anthony Lupia’s historic showing at the SUNYAC Championships.
Lupia finished fifth overall and earned SUNYAC Cross Country Hall of Fame honors, only the seventh man in school history and the first since Tim Kelly in 1989.
Moving on to winter sports, the women’s basketball team played extremely well this year led by superstar Lyteshia Price. The group finished fifth in the SUNYAC regular season standings with a 17-10 record (12-6 in conference) and lost to New Paltz in the SUNYAC semifinals by nine points.
Price was named the SUNYAC Player of the Year after averaging over 16 points, eight rebounds, and two steals per game this season. The senior will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest players in program history and ranks sixth all-time in scoring, tied for first in rebounds, fifth in blocks, fifth in three-pointers made, and sixth in steals.
The success couldn’t have come to a better, more hardworking individual than Price, who gave birth to her beautiful daughter London the summer before her junior year. Despite her hectic schedule and maternal responsibilities, Price did not miss a single game in her four year career, appearing in all 106 contests. The team really rallied around both Lyteshia and London, who practically became a second mascot for the Red Dragons and participated in all of their pregame warm-ups and postgame celebrations.
SUNY Oneonta continued to run away with various awards and accolades, this time courtesy of the women’s indoor track & field team.
At one point during the season the women’s indoor track & field team ranked third in the nation, the first top-five ranking in school history.
That list of firsts continued when the Red Dragons claimed their first ever women’s SUNYAC Track & Field Championship, beating second place SUNY Geneseo by just four and a half points.
It was a real nail-bitter through and through, with the title being decided by just six one- hundredths of a second on the last event, the 4×400-meter relay.
The strong showing earned SUNY Oneonta a berth in the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championship and earned Head Coach Angelo Posillico SUNYAC Women’s Coach of the Year honors. This was Posillico’s first Coach of the Year award on the women’s side, though he has won twice with the men’s team, once for the 2014 outdoor season and once for the 2015 indoor season.
The women sent nine athletes to the NCAA Division III Track & Field Championship, with sophomore Kayla Clohessy placing seventh in the long jump, earning All-American honors.
It’s truly been a tremendous year for SUNY Oneonta’s up-and-coming athletics program. Already ranked in the top-15 nationally and improving every year, the Red Dragons will be a force to reckon with for years to come.