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February 27, 2009

 

Red Dragons look to fulfill expectations

DragonsBob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland head coach Steve Beville is looking to fill the void left by 12 graduating seniors off last year’s 18-2 team that played for a national title.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

Having spent the last three Memorial Day weekends battling for a Division III national championship, the SUNY Cortland men’s lacrosse program has grown accustomed to success.
So being able to remain among the nation’s elite is the challenge ahead for third year head coach Steve Beville heading into Saturday’s season-opener, when the Red Dragons head to Long Island to take on Western New England.
“We have built a culture around here where expectations are going to be great every year. We look forward to keeping those expectations high, of making the effort to continue the success we’ve had,” said Beville earlier this week.
To do that, Beville will have to replace a dozen departed seniors who were crucial to the 18-2 season Cortland enjoyed a year ago that ended with a loss to perennial power Salisbury in the national title game.
Starting attackmen Ryan Heath (53 goals-48 assists), Billy Fuchs (58-31) and Kyle Simensky (40-14) are gone, along with talented midfielders like Adam Hyde (28-17), Josh Cittadino (17-18) and Chris Hannon (14-6). Stalwarts such as defenseman Nick Bueti and defensive midfielders Keith Green and Greg Steward also leave a void. Those players accounted for 212 of the 331 goals scored by the explosive Red Dragons of a year ago.
“They gave us more than the numbers they put up,” added Beville of those former Red Dragons. “The leadership they provided the past two and three years here made this program what it is today.”
So though the defense remains pretty much intact with senior captains Luke Lemon and Kevin Mitchell back, other Red Dragons old and new will be asked to step up.
“There are young players who have been waiting for their chance and they’re going to surprise some people, and the freshman class we have is a very talented group,” said Beville prior to Saturday’s 1 p.m. opener at a neutral John Jay Cross River High School site.
Among those talented freshmen are midfielder Zach Mulvaney and defenseman Dave Gallagher out of Carthage, along with attackman Mike Tota from Webster Schroeder.
While the search for an offensive identity could take a while, Lemon and Mitchell will be joined by classmate Matt Noble out of LaFayette to form a solid defensive trio. Senior Cody Hoyt is back as a long-stick midfield performer, too, while 6-foot-4 sophomores John Korzyp (Baldwinsville) and Justin Schneidman (John Jay) could make an impact along with rookie Gallagher.
Replacing the defensive midfield tandem of Green and Steward will be the duo of junior Tom Burk and sophomore Eric Parah, who look to be just as athletic as Green and Steward albeit with better stick skills.
Senior Matt Hipenbecker will start in goal on Saturday against Western New England, classmate Mike Robinson also a starter from the past who will see time. A familiar name is also looking to push for time between the pipes is freshman Kyle Gaebel out of Carthage. At 5-foot-8 and 160-pounds, he is truly the little brother of former 260-pound Red Dragon goalie Ben Gaebel — a hero in Cortland’s 2006 overtime title game victory over Salisbury.
Replacing first team All-American Heath and Company on attack will be tricky. Junior Brian Krol got experience on Cortland’s man-up unit a year ago and returns. Sophomore Jay DiStefano and junior midfield convert Neal Hopps will get there chance to shine, along with Tota and 6-foot-4 Syracuse transfer Tyler Granelli (John Jay).
Senior captain Joey Morgan is the leading returning scorer with 29 goals and a dozen assists and heads up the midfield, where he will be paired with junior Brandon Misiaszek (17-6) and sophomore Chris DeLuca (12-1). The sturdy DeLuca will also handle the faceoff duties that he shared with current assistant coach Cittadino a year ago.
Frosh Mulvaney and a couple of veterans out of Vestal, senior Conor Duffy and junior Chris Dutkowsky, will run with the second midfield unit.
“You don’t know until you play the games,” said Beville how this new group will perform, the Red Dragons with a home opener this Wednesday against Montclair State at 3:30 p.m. Ranked third in the pre-season Division III poll, Cortland will then go back to Long Island on March 7 to face second ranked Gettysburg in a key early season test.
Of course, repeating as SUNY Athletic Conference champions will get Cortland back into the NCAA Division III playoffs, and tough games with Upstate rivals like Clarkson, Ithaca, Nazareth and RIT should have the Red Dragons ready for that conference challenge.
“We’ll be a little different this year. We’ll have to grind it out more than in the past. We’re not going to play any differently, we’re still going to pressure people, but we’re not going to be as explosive on offense as we were last year,” admits Beville.
SU HONORS SOLOMON: Former Syracuse lacrosse All-American Travis Solomon will be honored at halftime of the Orange’s game tonight at 7 p.m. against No. 2 Virginia. Solomon, the goalie for SU’s 1983 national championship team, is battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Solomon will be joined on the field by members of the 1983 Orange squad and he will be recognized with a brief video presentation.
In addition, on Saturday a fundraiser for Solomon and his family to help fight the disease will be held at the fire hall on Route 11 in LaFayette. A donation includes a pig roast, salads, appetizers and non-alcoholic drinks. In addition, there will be a silent auction, 50/50 raffles and two bands to provide entertainment. The fundraiser begins at 2 p.m. and will continue until 8 p.m.
Solomon played for the Orange from 1981 to 1983, earning honorable mention All-America honors in 1983. He finished with 293 career saves, including 259 during the Orange’s run to the NCAA title, which ranks fifth on the school’s single-season saves list.
For more information about Solomon and how you can help, please visit www.travissolomon.org.
Tonight’s Syracuse-Virginia showdown will also showcase two local players, Brian McDermott out of Homer a midfielder for Virginia while Cortland’s Joel White is a long-stick midfielder for the Orange.

SUNY CORTLAND SCHEDULE
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Saturday vs. Western New England at John Jay High School (Cross River, 1 p.m.)
March 4: MONTCLAIR STATE (3:30), 7 vs. Gettysburg at Massapequa (1), 14 vs. Clarkson at Sanford, Fla. (TBA), 21 ITHACA (1), 25 at Nazareth (3:30), 28 RIT (1)
April 4 POTSDAM* (12:30), 8 at Geneseo* (4), 11 at Plattsburgh* (1), 15 OSWEGO* (4), 18 at Oneonta* (2), 21 BROCKPORT* (4), 23 St. Lawrence in Syracuse site TBA (7), 26 at Morrisville* (1)
* SUNYAC contests