Jake Sutherland has established himself as a clutch soccer player.
In the NCAA Division III tournament alone, the junior forward for SUNY Oneonta State has scored game-winning goals in back-to-back games.
In his career, he has seven.
“I’m just usually in the right place at the right time,” Sutherland said. “Our team does a great job of moving the ball. We play very well as a team. Anyone on this team can score. I’ve just been lucky to score those goals.”
Sutherland has tallied 11 goals on the season. None were bigger than the two he scored this past weekend for the unbeaten Red Dragons, who are headed to the final four for the first time since 2011.
He struck for the game-winner in the 77th minute of a thrilling 2-1 win over Franklin & Marshall in the Sweet 16. One day later, Sutherland scored the only goal the Red Dragons would need in a 3-0 national quarterfinal win over Brandeis.
We’ve been taking it one game at a time all year, and we plan on playing the next game just like we have played the other ones.
Not only is Oneonta still alive in its quest for the national championship, but it is headed to Kansas City this weekend, riding the high of being the first team in program history to win 20 games in a season, with a record of 21-0-2
Sutherland said he and his teammates took a little time to enjoy the moment before preparing for its national semifinal battle with Wheaton (Ill.) on Friday at Swope Park in Kansas City. It will be the first ever meeting between the two schools. The Thunder are 21-3.
“It’s a great feeling to move on,” Sutherland said. “All year, we’ve worked hard for this opportunity, and to get there is a dream come true.”
Having the opportunity to contend for a national title was a huge selling point for Sutherland when it came to choosing a school.
He arrived on campus a year after the Red Dragons reached the Final Four and was eager to make his own mark on the program.
It took time to make that happen. As a freshman in 2012, Sutherland played in 11 games, scoring four goals, including two game-winners, and tallying an assist.
“I played behind some great players that first year, and I felt like it was a great learning experience for me,” Sutherland said. “It really helped me become a better player in the long run.”
Sutherland saw action in 20 games last year, scoring three goals and dishing out four assists. He scored one game-winning goal.
This season, Sutherland has been a key part of an offense that has cranked out 57 goals. Cory Santangelo leads the way with 14 while Sutherland is second on the team in goals with 11.
Dylan Williams and Hans Purtell have struck for eight goals apiece while Colin Volpe has come through with three goals. Four other players have scored two goals. Vincent Pellegrino has started 18 games in goal and has tallied 45 saves.
“We have tremendous balance on this team,” Sutherland said, “But while we have scored a lot of goals, it’s our defense that really holds down the fort. They set up our counter attack. They deserve a lot of credit for our success.”
Oneonta State hopes to keep this run going next week in Missouri. Yes, there is more pressure now that the Red Dragons are one of four teams still standing, but Sutherland said it is pressure that he and his teammates are ready to embrace.
“We’ve been taking it one game at a time all year, and we plan on playing the next game just like we have played the other ones,” Sutherland said. “We won’t change anything. The mindset is that it’s just another game and we will prepare hard to be ready for the challenge.”