February 21, 2014
Defense a key Dragon concern
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Senior Joe Slavik (12) of SUNY Cortland, driving to the goal against Ithaca’s Casey Schattner last season, is back at midfield for a Red Dragon team that opens the season Saturday at Albright College.
A year ago the big pre-season question mark for the SUNY Cortland lacrosse team was on offense, where new faces had to be inserted into the attack.
With Zach Hopps and Cody Consul stepping up to score 28 goals apiece, the rebuilt Red Dragons reeled off 19 consecutive victories — including repeating as SUNY Athletic Conference regular season and playoff champions along the way — before suffering an overtime home field setback to RIT in the NCAA Division III playoff semifinals.
Heading into his eighth season as the head coach, Steve Beville’s main concern now is getting a practically brand new defense ready for Saturday’s 1 p.m. opening test at Albright College in Reading, Pa.
A large loss indeed is having 6-foot-4 goalie and first-team All-America selection Mike Kaminski no longer around. He was a graduation casualty along with steady starting defensemen C.J. Nye and Craig Sullivan, who were also on that All-American squad.
“They will be hard to replace, but these guys are athletic enough and fast enough,” admitted Beville, feeling good about his current defensive unit.
Long pole Brian Winterfeldt is back for his senior season, and Coach Beville is high on the abilities of fellow senior defensemen J.T. Foltz out of Auburn and Mike Warner out of Geneva. Senior Stephen Burke and junior West Genesee product Pat Brown could also be used on close defense, though both players are also long-stick midfielders by trade where St. Rose transfer Dan Southard adds to the defensive depth.Junior Scott Tota, one of the team captains, has experience in goal, too. That is why Beville says: “That concern spot in the goal is a little less of a concern because of the time Tota got to play as a freshman.”
Senior Nick Costablile is actually pushing Tota for that starting goalie role to take over for the departed Kaminski, who had a .633 save percentage anchoring a defense that give up just six goals per contest a year ago.
SCORING GOALS SHOULD not be a problem for the Red Dragons with the top five scorers returning from 2013, when Cortland averaged a dozen goals per game.
Sophomore Hopps (28 goals-40 assists) and senior captain Consul (28-26) will head up the attack, where they will be paired with people like senior Nate Garbarino (1-3), junior Benjamin Dunleavey (13-7) and junior Eric Ohman (3-0).
“It’s a pretty experienced group,” said Coach Beville of his seasoned attack.
The first midfield trio headed up by senior captain Joe Slavik returns intact. Slavik, the quick-footed redhead out of Binghamton’s Seton Catholic Central who was a first team All-American the ECAC Player of the Year in 2013, scored a team-high 33 goals to go along with 26 assists a year ago.
Junior captain Matt Rakoczy (29-7) and junior Mike Cantelli (14-8) are the others on that first midfield unit that should provide opposing defenses all kinds of headaches.
A second midfield line has a host of candidates. Freshmen Nate Beresovoy from LaFayette, along with fellow frosh and North Carolina native Mike Hart, are among the newcomers ready to contribute along with returning players like junior Billy Davis, senior Tyler Chin and sophomore Connor Johnston.
Junior attackman Hunter Osborne and Johnston are both former scholastic standouts from Homer Central.
Sophomore Pat Baldwin and Davis will be the main men handling faceoffs for the Red Dragons.
A deep group of defensive middies will also see playing time, featuring returnees like senior captain Doug Meehan and junior Luke McNaney out of Marcellus. Coach Beville is also high on senior Fred Masse and Ohio native Dillon Giorgis at that position, too.
HAVING BEEN DENIED the program’s sixth appearance in the Division III finals over a seven-year stretch by RIT last spring provided plenty of motivation for the Red Dragons, who are ranked third nationally in Division III in pre-season polling.
The Red Dragons get a rematch with RIT at Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome on March 12, among another rugged non-league slate of games that includes a March 1 home opener with Union College.
“That was disappointing to end the season on that note, but I think the guys have had a good off-season,” said Beville of the RIT loss.
“We go year by year, and that’s what makes these guys successful. They’re not looking back,” he added. “Here’s the challenge in front of us for 2014 and here’s the schedule, so let’s go do it. It’s been a good recipe for success.”
Former Salisbury player and assistant Nick Fiorentino is new to the coaching staff, which also features past Red Dragon players Greg Wright and Nye along with returning assistant Dan Vogl.
Opening foe Albright also has local ties, starting with head coach Jake Plunket — who was a midfielder at Homer and Syracuse University who also served as a Cortland assistant.
A trio of past Cortland High stickers — junior midfielder and team scoring leader Phil Potter (37 goals-43 assists in 2013), younger brother Andrew Potter at midfield and fellow frosh Kevin Parker on defense — are on the Albright roster. So are senior defenseman Cody Sandy from Homer and two former Dryden High players — senior Austin O’Brien and frosh Jordan Zehr.
“They get better every year,” said Beville of Plunket’s Albright squad that finished 15-4 last year including a season-opening 16-4 loss to Cortland. “They get older every year. Now he has some upper classmen, which he’s never had before.”
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