March 23, 2009
Bombers hand Dragons first setback
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Conor Duffy (5) works his way toward the goal in the first quarter against Ithaca Bombers defender Matt Molnar (25). Visiting Ithaca was an 11-8 winner.
Though standing only 5-foot-8, Ithaca College sophomore goalie David Gal came up very big in this early-season lacrosse showdown.
Behind a career high 22 saves from Gal, the Bombers were 11-8 winners over SUNY Cortland in Saturday afternoon’s clash of nationally-ranked unbeaten upstate rivals, a three-goal outburst within a minute span late in the third quarter putting the visitors in control.
“We wanted to prove to everyone we could come in here and do it,” said Gal after Ithaca earned a bit of revenge following a humbling 16-5 loss to the Red Dragons in the NCAA Division III playoff semifinals last May at this same SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex site.
The fifth-ranked Bombers were able to avenge that setback and improve to 6-0 on the season despite being out-shot 55-27, the second ranked Red Dragon also unable to take advantage of slight edges in faceoffs won (13-9) and ground balls (35-32) while suffering their first loss after opening the season with four straight victories.
“I think we played poorly on both sides of the ball,” was how Cortland head coach Steve Beville saw things. “Two things reared their ugly head, and that was our inexperience and our play in goal. Our guy had a tough game and their guy was a world-beater.”
Cortland did battle back from an early 4-0 first quarter deficit. Freshman attackman Greg Wright scored three times in the opening half before senior midfielder Conor Duffy swept to his left to beat Gal with a shot a mere 1:35 into the third quarter to even things up at 4-4.
“We knew we had to keep our composure over the entire game,” said Gal of how his teammates responded after seeing their early lead evaporate, adding he fully expected Cortland to recover from its shaky start.
After things evened up, Ithaca freshman Tom Mongelli scored his third goal of the game from the doorstep of the crease off a nice feed from senior Matt Cutter to regain the lead. Then teammate Kevin Bush struck midway through the period to put the Bombers back up by two goals.
And when Cortland got back to within 6-5 when junior midfielder Brandon Misiaszek’s hard shot found the back of the Ithaca net with 5:26 left in the stanza, the Bombers came up with their decisive spurt. Bush scored again off a feed from leading Ithaca scorer Alec Siefert a mere 57 seconds later, senior Matt Ruhnke won the ensuing faceoff and tucked away a fast break goal and junior Nic Heckman spun away from a Red Dragon defender and rifled a shot past goalie Matt Hipenbecker.
Within that one minute blink of an eye, Ithaca had a 9-5 lead that Cortland could not overcome over the final 15 minutes despite getting an early fourth quarter goal from attackman Brian Krol. The Ithaca lead was 11-6 on goals from Chris Carman and Siefert when a couple of late tallies by Red Dragons midfielder Joey Morgan and attackman Jay DiStefano (who also had two assists on the day) made the final score respectable.
“Ithaca outplayed us in every aspect of the game,” said Beville, as Cortland was held to its lowest scoring output of the season. The Red Dragons came into the game averaging 15 goals per contest.
“It was one of those days where the ball bounced our way and it didn’t bounce Cortland’s way,” said Ithaca coach Jeff Long after this big victory got his team prepared from a stretch of upcoming Empire 8 Conference contests.
Gal’s steady play helped frustrate Cortland shooters, too — the sophomore beating out Homer Central graduate and senior team captain Ben Connery for the starting job. Coach Long noted having two dependable goalies is a plus, Connery playing a key role in a comeback win over Oneonta earlier this season.
“Ben has grown up a lot. He’s handled a tough situation well and my heart goes out to him, but he’s a main reason why we won today and we still know we’ll need him. You need two good goalies,” said Coach Long of Connery.
Now Cortland has to recover, a visit to longtime nemesis Nazareth up next this Wednesday afternoon outside of Rochester. Cortland has a tough challenge when RIT visits Saturday, too, in the final tune-up for SUNY Athletic Conference play.
Last year, the Red Dragons suffered their only regular season loss at Ithaca — in overtime — only to recover to go unbeaten until losing to Salisbury in the Division III championship game.
“We certainly have a lot of talent and guys who have the potential to put play well,” said Beville. “Everyone has to take a look in the mirror and get ready to go next week.”
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