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March 12, 2008

 

Red Dragons pass early season test

Overcome 2nd half deficit to beat Western NE, 18-15

Dragons

Josh Cittadino (18) of SUNY Cortland beats Travis Brown of Western New England to the ball after a faceoff in Tuesday’s lacrosse clash of ranked teams. Cortland won 18-15 behind Cittadino’s faceoff efforts.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

If the highly regarded SUNY Cortland lacrosse team was looking for an opportunity to test its early season mettle, it arrived on this well-chilled Tuesday afternoon.
In a showdown of nationally ranked teams, the fourth ranked Red Dragons were up to the challenge in knocking off Western New England in a wild 18-15 shootout. This non-conference clash was up for grabs until senior attackmen Billy Fuchs and Ryan Heath each deposited point blank goals in the waning moments when the visitors were forced to scramble defensively trying to create a turnover.
Fuchs finished with four goals, senior midfielder Chris Hannon collected three goals and an assist and Heath added four assists and a pair of goals for a Red Dragon team off to a 2-0 start.
“It’s worth playing teams like this,” said pleased Cortland coach Steve Beville after erasing a second half deficit against a staunch foe. The second year head man noted tests like these will prepare his Red Dragons for upcoming SUNY Athletic Conference battles and, hopefully, another NCAA tournament appearance for a team that has been in the national title game the past two seasons.
The Golden Bears arrived from Springfield, Mass., ranked sixth nationally in Division III. Coach John Klepecki’s squad had already knocked off Bates and Nichols to open the season and were eager to avenge a two-goal home field loss to the Red Dragons in the NCAA Division III playoff quarterfinals last May.
Western New England nearly got that revenge on a SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex turf field lined by snow, overcoming an early 4-1 deficit to pull even at 8-8 at halftime. The Golden Bears had the Red Dragons on the ropes when three unanswered goals in the third quarter built a 12-10 lead with 2:28 left in that stanza.
“We have a lot of experience on this team and we refused to fold,” said Coach Beville of how Cortland responded to that predicament.
Before the third quarter ended, Cortland pulled even on goals by veteran Hannon and freshman midfielder Frank Padolecchia — the latter coming off a Ryan Simensky assist following a groundball pick-up by the frisky Fuchs.
So when the final quarter opener with sophomore Brandon Misiaszek scoring from the right side, with Hannon going horizontal to get a low shot past Golden Bears goalie Chris Body and with Heath locating Padolecchia all alone for an easy score, Cortland had a three-goal lead and never trailed again.
“WE DID GET a test,” said Cortland’s Fuchs, who had scored three times in a season-opening win at Stevens Tech. “We went 10 days without a game. I think we would have started off a little stronger if we had had a couple of games in between.”
Cortland tried to face St. Lawrence this past weekend only to have snow interfere, though Western New England also had a game slated with Hartwick College postponed.
And the Red Dragons actually started pretty well behind the faceoff work of senior Josh Cittadino. More impressively, the opening nine goals scored by Cortland in the first half came from nine different players.
Though Western New England scored first, four straight Cortland goals followed — capped by strikes a mere seven seconds apart. After Misiaszek put the Red Dragons up 3-1, a faceoff gobbled up by Cittadino trigged a fast break that Simensky finished off a Heath assist.
The teams traded goals, but Cortland led 6-3 at the end of the opening quarter after senior midfielder Adam Hyde scored off a set play with 33 seconds to go with Heath providing the pass once again.
But Western New England — which got four goals and three assists from Brody Savoie; two goal games from Scott Kukis, Tim Heffernan, Ben Reardon and Joe O’Keefe; and three assists from Mike Kelly — came back behind a potent transition game.
“We made a lot of mistakes, clearing the ball especially,” said Coach Beville. “In our set offense we played pretty well, we were fine, but in unsettled situations Western New England took advantage of that.”
Western New England prefers a fast paced game, but the Red Dragons were able to match the Golden Bears stride-for-stride.
“I thought it might be an old fashion run-and goal lacrosse game, because that’s their style and they’re good at it,” said Beville. “We can play like that, too.”
Even temperatures in the 30s could not cool off either offense, Cortland finishing with a 48-38 shot edge.
“This is the warmest it’s been around here for the last couple of days,” noted Fuchs with a grin. “We were all psyched, all wearing short sleeves.”
AFTER GRABBING that three-goal lead in the fourth quarter, the Red Dragons still had some work to do.
Goals by Savoie and Kukis had the Golden Bears within 15-14 with 9:34 left to play. Cortland regained a two-goal lead when Fuchs rifled in a man-up goal — the only extra-man Cortland success — with 5:04 left to play.
Kelly found a cutting Heffernan in stride for a goal that pulled the visitors within 16-15 with 2:19 left, but Cortland came up big again starting when Cittandino won the ensuing facoff. After a successful double-team nearly forced a Cortland turnover, Hyde came up with a huge groundball pick-up and found Fuchs alone in front. The senior threw in a couple of pump fakes before scoring with 1:18 left to play.
After a Western New England turnover, Heath added his clincher into an empty net 34 seconds from the finish.
Getting goals from so many different players, Joey Morgan and Chris Dutkowsky also scoring from the Cortland midfield while Simensky had a pair of goals, was a good sign for Cortland.
“We have been waiting for our midfield to pick up on offense. They’re have the ability to score goals and it was good to see them get their goals today,” said Fuchs.
“We showed more balance,” agreed Beville. “We struggled with that until the end of last year, but we got that today.”
Cortland will also get a chance to thaw out, the Red Dragons headed to Florida for the rest of the week. Cortland will face Clarkson Saturday in Cocoa Beach.