March 19, 2012
Dragons spurt carries the day
Pull away to top Stevenson, 13-9
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Mike Tota celebrates scoring the first goal of the game Saturday against Stevenson. The Red Dragons remained undefeated with a 13-9 victory.
When Stevenson University scored twice in the final minute of the opening half to pull even at 7-7, momentum certainly seemed to favor the visitors from Maryland in Saturday’s early-season showdown of nationally-ranked Division III men’s lacrosse powers.
Apparently, unbeaten SUNY Cortland was hardly fazed by that bit of misfortune.
The Red Dragons emerged from their intermission breather to score four times over the opening four and a half minutes of the second half and get a solid grasp of things, going on to post an impressive 13-9 victory for their fourth victory of the season without a stumble.
“Early on in the season we haven’t really been coming out strong in the second half. That’s something we’ve really been focusing on and it showed off today,” said attackman Greg Wright, the senior captain who started and finished off that decisive third quarter spurt with goals. “That was huge. We needed to get the momentum back and we did that, and it carried us the rest of the way.”
Freshman attackman Cody Consul had three goals and three assists for the Red Dragons, while Wright finished with his own hat trick and picked up an assist. The defense held the Mustangs to just a pair of second half goals, as junior goalie Mike Kaminski was unflappable throughout a 14-save performance.
Cortland came into the game ranked third nationally in Division III, while Stevenson — who had a 6-3 loss to Lynchburg on its resume — held down the No. 9 spot in the latest national poll. The last three Cortland wins have all been against nationally-ranked opposition.
“We had built three two-goal leads during the first half we just had lapses on defense and some bad decision-making and some weak ground ball work,” said head coach Steve Beville of how early Cortland advantages of 3-1, 4-2 and 7-5 failed to last. “I said (at halftime) you can’t play that weakly on ground balls and think you are going to come out against a good team like that. In the second half we just came out and got back to some strong fundamentals, and I think that was the key.”
Cortland won the ground ball battle by a final 41-35 count, and out-shot Stevenson by a 40-28 margin.
Though Stevenson (5-2) got two-goal games from leading scorer Stephan Banick and Pat Candon, this St. Patrick’s Day trip would go un-rewarded for green-shirted Mustangs on an unseasonably warm March afternoon where temperatures at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex surpassed 70 degrees.
“All wins are good and this was a good, hard-fought win. And obviously, no one figured it would be 70 degrees,” said Coach Beville after Cortland avenged a 10-8 loss at Stevenson from last season.
CORTLAND HELD A slight 4-3 lead after the opening quarter, and survived having to kill off three penalties over those opening 15 minutes.
One of those infractions was a blow to the head that led to a two-minute non-releasable penalty — though the best scoring chances during that Stevenson man-up came from Cortland. Senior defensive middie Matt Hoey just zinged a scoring chance wide of the mark, Stevenson goalie Ian Bolland robbed senior attackman Mike Tota from point-blank range and Cortland botched a fast break scoring chance during that crucial short-handed period.
Stevenson grabbed its only lead at 5-4 early in the second quarter on goals by Banick and Kenny Whittaker, only to have Cortland come right back. Freshman midfielder Billy Davis scored his first goal of the season to tie things at 5-5, senior middie Zach Mulvaney cashed in from a Wright assist after some extra passes made Stevenson pay for having a defender slip and Consul slipped free in front to convert a pass from freshman midfielder Nick Wolak into a 7-5 lead.
Stevenson got goals nine seconds apart from Billy Burgoyne and Banick in the final minutes of the half, however, to tie things up for the fourth and final time.
Just over a minute into the second half, Wright got Cortland rolling by breaking free to the right of the Stevenson goal and beating goalie Bolland from a tough angle. Eight seconds later off the ensuing faceoff, Consul was bouncing a shot home off an assist from long-stick midfielder Jack Kennedy and Cortland had another two-goal lead.
Wolak then livened the place up with a high, hard shot from out top for a 10-7 advantage before Wright scored from the right wing from a Consul assist for the fourth goal of that scoring spree that pretty much settled the issue.
“We’re just starting to get the chemistry down,” said Wright of the improved Cortland offense, which got two-goal games from Tota and Mulvaney, a goal from Hoey and the offensive contributes from rookies Wolak and Davis. “We were missing it the first couple of games, but we’ve been working hard in practice and we’re just determined to get better in every single game, and it’s showing off.”
“WE’RE STARTING TO get some production from some of the other guys, so that’s good,” said Beville after Cortland’s second consecutive double-digit scoring output. “Wolak stepped up with a big game and Davis had one, so we’re developing some depth there.”
Cortland junior Nick Jarvis also won 14 of the 24 faceoffs he took, while long-stick midfielders Kennedy and Sean Davern led the team with four ground ball pick-ups apiece.
“Our defense stepped up in the second half, but they did not play well in the first half,” noted Beville. “We’ve got to get better. We have three huge regional games coming up.”The first of those arrives Tuesday night, when Cortland heads to Vermont to take on Middlebury College. Game time is 6 p.m.
Of course, wins over ranked foes Union, Gettysburg and now Stevenson will provide some nice early-season momentum to build upon.
“It gives us huge confidence,” said Wright. “We want to prove that we’re a national contender, and beating a national contender in Stevenson shows it. And for the young guys who haven’t been here before, it’s big game experience so it’s important.”
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