POTSDAM -- Three SUNY Potsdam athletic programs open State University of New York Athletic Conference play this weekend.
Here's a look at how each of the teams fared in the bulk of their non-conference schedules and a look ahead to the SUNYAC season.
After falling in its first three contests, the men's soccer team posted a 1-1-1 record over its last three matches to open the season with a 1-4-1 mark.
The Bears, whose only loss in their last three games came in overtime, defeated local rival Canton 2-0 on Sept. 15 to give first-year head coach Adam Parker his first victory at Potsdam. With the win, the team also moved half way to its goal of recording two wins over the three local teams, which also include St. Lawrence (Tuesday) and Clarkson (Oct. 19).
This Friday's first league game against Geneseo also marks the home opener for the road-weary Bears. Potsdam hosts Brockport on Saturday to complete the weekend.
"We've got to win our home games," sophomore defenseman Victor Colasacco said. "This is our home. It doesn't matter if the team we're playing is a lot more skilled, because if we come to play, we can beat anyone. We just need to keep it simple."
Players and coaches believe the team can use its physicality to its advantage as the competition and intensity increases with the coming of league play.
"We've got some big guys and we're tough in the air," said Colasacco, an Oceanside, N.Y., native. "We've got to use our bodies against bigger teams, and take advantage of our corner kicks and free kicks Š conference play is a blood bath, it's tough."
The women's soccer team rolls into conference play with a 7-1 record, including four straight wins. In their seven wins, the Bears have yet to allow a goal and have outscored opponents 25-0.
Junior goaltender Caitlin Titus (Jamesville, N.Y.) was named SUNYAC Player of the Week soccer and ECAC Defensive Player of the Week in women's soccer for the week ending Sept. 12. Titus, who has yet to surrender a goal this season, combined for a shutout against Wells (Sept. 7) and recorded a solo shutout over Sage (Sept. 11).
Senior captain Kelsey Butz (Schenectady, N.Y.) attributed the team's success to the closeness among players on the roster.
"We're really starting to come together as a team and improve overall," Butz said. "We have very good chemistry this year with all the girls."
The Bears begin SUNYAC play on Friday at Geneseo, followed by a match at Brockport on Saturday. In addition to the elevated intensity and amped-up level of play, Potsdam players will see a number of familiar faces on the other side of the field from experiences throughout their playing careers.
"It's a lot more competitive, on a totally different level than our preseason," Butz said. "I just have a lot of fun because it's what really counts. In high school I played against a girl from Plattsburgh and against a bunch of girls from Cortland. It's weird seeing them at the college level."
The volleyball team has played in three tournaments and one non-conference match, posting a 4-9 record. Potsdam split four matches in the Victory Promotions Invitational, its annual home tournament, on Sept. 10-11.
With 12 of their 14 players at sophomore or freshmen eligibility, the Bears showed flashes of both potential and youth during the first third of the season. Potsdam has won the first set in eight of its 13 matches, going on to win the match on only three of those occasions.
The Bears open their conference slate at New Paltz this Friday and Saturday at the first of two SUNYAC East Pool Play weekends this season. The team plays Cortland and Plattsburgh Friday, and Oneonta and New Paltz on Saturday.
"We need to enter each match with a positive-aggressive attitude," junior outside hitter Sam Strader said. "We need to realize that each team is different, and play to their weaknesses and our strengths Š right now, our main priority is the SUNYACs."
Strader (Watertown, N.Y.) also discussed the importance of staying focused academically and staying healthy as the grind of the season wears on. In addition, as the competition heats up in league action, Potsdam players will see even more familiar faces than normal on the other side of the net.
"A lot of us have played club," Strader said. "There's a High Performance program up here and a lot of us have played together through that. They're all important games Š it'll be nice to show them what Potsdam has."