February 26, 2007


Red Dragons take the title

Byrne sparks second half comeback to beat Lakers


SUNY Cortland guard Maggie Byrne leaps into the arms of coach Jeanette Youman while assistant coach Chris DeHay and injured teammate Andrea Wilkinson (right) celebrate beating Oswego for the conference woman’s basketball championship Saturday at Corey Gym.

Sports Editor

There were 10 seconds left to play, the outcome of this championship basketball tussle having already been settled, when SUNY Cortland guard Maggie Byrne was removed from the game.
With some folks among the Corey Gymnasium crowd letting loose a chant of ‘MVP’ during this departure, the 5-foot-4 sophomore arrived to the sideline where she was hoisted off her feet in a bear hug embrace courtesy of Coach Jeannette Yeoman.
The smallest Red Dragon had come through with the biggest contribution in a dramatic comeback victory Saturday, as Cortland women rallied past Oswego 59-50 to win the SUNY Athletic Conference playoff title for the sixth time in school history.
After not even attempting a shot in a nightmarish first half that found the top seeds trailing the defending champion Lakers by a 31-24 margin, Byrne had 14 points and four assists to ignite a second half spark as Cortland displayed its championship mettle.
And Byrne — who would wind up being named the tourney MVP — did it despite being less than 100 percent. She admitted afterwards a sore throat was still giving her plenty of discomfort even in the glow of victory.
“So much heart. So much desire,” said Byrne of this Red Dragon effort after a very shaky start that saw Oswego score the game’s first 10 points. “We were going to do whatever we had to do to catch up, and we did catch up.”
Starting with the opening basket of the second half, Byrne was 4-for-7 from beyond the 3-point arc. It was her trey that finally knotted things at 38-38, and she had 3-point swishes from beyond the arc that gave the Red Dragons 41-38 and 46-43 leads during crunch time.
“I don’t know what happened there,” said Byrne in happy disbelief. “In the second half I just kept putting up shots and they kept going in.”
Because they did, Cortland improved to 25-2 on the season and stretched a Corey Gymnasium unbeaten streak to 39 consecutive games.
Not that Byrne was alone in this endeavor.
Junior forward Sara Cavanaugh had 13 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. Nine of those were much needed points in the first half when her Red Dragon teammates were struggling.
Freshman forward Jessica Laing added 12 points, nine rebounds and five steals to the victory. Senior guard Kerry Costello had a steady nine-point performance. And back-up sophomore point guard Kristin Ciccone — getting a nice 29-minute chunk of playing time — had six points and four assists after shaking off a couple of missed lay-ups during Cortland’s early stumbling.
The game’s biggest shot may have been the Brittany Martin 3-pointer from the left wing that closed out the first half, getting Cortland within seven points at the break. The freshman had made just a handful of 3-pointers all season prior to that crucial connection.
“THEY HAVE found a way to win,” said Coach Yeoman of her regular season champions, who had a lone loss at Brockport to go along with 15 regular season conference wins. That earned the Red Dragons the top seed and the home floor advantage for the SUNYAC playoffs.
 “And we’re getting better, too,” added Yeoman. “We’re doing some things we weren’t doing earlier in the year, and that’s a good thing going into the NCAA tournament.”
The biggest prize for winning the SUNYAC title is an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III tournament, and the Red Dragons will hosting regional play Friday and Saturday. Medaille (22-4) is the Red Dragon first round opponent, with Rochester (20-5) and St. Lawrence (24-3) also on hand.
Defense wins championships, too.
So give credit to the Red Dragons stifling man-to-man work over the final 20 minutes, when Oswego made just 5-of-28 shots. The Lakers missed all eight of their 3-point attempts in the second half.
Cortland also blocked 11 shots, tying the single game record for a SUNYAC tournament game.
“You’re not going to win many games shooting 17 percent in a half,” said Oswego coach Michelle Collins. “We knew in the first half they had their best defenders, Laing and (Ali) Canale on the bench with fouls. We knew in the second half they would make a run at us, and they did.”
In the first half, the question seemed to be would Cortland ever score a point.
Senior guard Kelly Mraz came out and buried back-to-back 3-pointers to get the third seeded Lakers going. The lead was 10-zip when Laing finally made the second of two free throws 4:41 into the game. Laing got Cortland’s first basket some 50 seconds later, a baseline jumper.
Cortland would get within 14-10 on a Costello 3-pointers, but some Red Dragon foul trouble and 13 first half turnovers contributed to the Lakers pulling away.
The Oswego lead was back to 31-21 after point guard Alaina Hannahs made a pair of late free throws.  That’s when Martin’s timely trey provided an omen of better things ahead for the Red Dragons.
“IT SAYS A LOT,” said Cavanaugh of what this second half revival says about Cortland’s character under duress. “We’ve worked so hard for it, to be the number one seed. It’s hard to win as the number one seed, but we did it.”
Byrne had a 3-pointer and then made two free throws to turn a 43-43 deadlock into a 48-43 lead with 5:11 left to play. Oswego was within four when Byrne had assists on baskets by Ciccone and Laing that hiked the lead to 54-46 with 1:45 left to play and this game was pretty much history.
Byrne had one more assist, leading to a breakaway lay-up by Ciccone with 18 seconds left, before getting to take her much deserved curtain call moments later.
Guard Lindsey Marquit had 18 points to lead Oswego, 10 of those coming from the free throw line. Mraz cooled off after her hot start and finished with 13 points.
The Lakers’ inside scoring threats were silenced, forward Jessica Collins with two points and center Jessica Tremblay held scoreless. Tremblay did haul in a game-high 12 rebounds.
“They’re a great team,” said Oswego coach Collins of Cortland. “They only have two losses and they proved tonight they’re the best team in the league.”


Cortland men drop lax debut

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The defending Division III champion SUNY Cortland men had a frustrating start to the lacrosse season.
The Red Dragons, ranked fifth nationally in the USILA Division III Preseason Coaches Poll, were nipped 10-9 at Villa Julie on Saturday afternoon.
The Mustangs opened up a 3-0 lead after the opening quarter and stretched their lead to 5-1 early in the second before the Red Dragons closed the opening half with four straight scores to make it a 5-5 game at the half.
Cortland grabbed its only lead of the day when senior attackman Mike Felice notched an unassisted score at 11:32 of the third quarter.
Villa Julie responded with three straight goals to take an 8-6 lead late in the quarter. The Red Dragons cut the lead to 8-7 with 1:13 to go in the third when junior Ryan Heath set up junior Billy Fuchs’ second goal of the game.
Villa Julie again answered with the next goal at the 12:44 mark of the fourth to regain a two-goal edge. Six minutes later, Fuchs set up junior Kyle Simensky’s second goal of the game and Cortland trailed 9-8.
Just 42 seconds later, the Mustangs upped their lead to 10-8. The Red Dragons pulled to within 10-9 with 3:27 remaining on junior Adam Hyde’s unassisted goal but were unable to score the equalizer down the stretch.
Fuchs finished with two goals and an assist, and Felice finished with a goal and two assists. Heath had one goal and an assist, while Simensky finished with two goals for Cortland.
Sophomore Matt Hipenbecker started in goal for Cortland and made nine saves in 52:18. Sophomore Michael Robinson stopped two shots in 7:42.




Cortland women 2nd at states

CANTON — Four first places helped SUNY Cortland women to finish second in a field of 16 teams at the New York State Collegiate Track Conference Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships on Sunday.
After events held Friday and Saturday at St. Lawrence University, RIT won the team title with 102 points. Cortland’s runner-up score was 92.5 points 1.5 ahead of third-place St. Lawrence. Buffalo State (88), Brockport (82) and Rensselaer (81) were also in the top six.
Senior Christina Acquaviva won the 55-meter hurdles with an NCAA provisional qualifying and Newell Field House record time of 8.28 seconds. She also placed second in the 55-meter dash in 7.43 seconds and qualified for the 200-meter dash finals in 26.42 seconds before being scratched in the finals.
Freshman Fawn Dorr set a new school record in the 400-meters, winning the event with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 57.48 seconds. The previous school record of 57.94 seconds was set by Kerri Gannon in 2003.
Other state champions for the Red Dragons included sophomore Sarah Kimball in the pole vault (11-1.75) and the 4x400-meter relay team of senior Jamie Ross junior Ashley Wirges, Dorr and sophomore Carly Kennedy (4:04.10).
Sophomore Katie McEvoy placed second in the pole vault (10-6), Wirges was third in the 500 meters (1:18.59) and junior Christa McGough finished third in the long jump (17- 1.5). Sophomore Keri Laviska tied for third in the pole vault (10-0).
CORTLAND MEN finished seventh as a team as senior Andrew Cloke and sophomore Jake Zanetti won individual event titles. Cloke also combined with senior C. Fred Joslyn, junior J.J. Riese and sophomore Niko Viglione to set a new school record in the distance medley relay.