March 25, 2008
Purple Tigers to lean on seniors
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Chris Fernandes, defending against Horseheads last season, is back for his senior season as the Purple Tigers open up against Johnson City Wednesday at TC3 in Dryden.
While this year’s edition of the Cortland High boys’ lacrosse team, which opens the season by meeting Johnson City at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden, features a healthy number of veterans, it also suffered from huge losses after going to last year’s Section 3 Class B final and tying the program record for wins in a season.
The biggest loss from the 2007 squad that went 18-3, with two of the losses in overtime, was midfielder Steve White. He is now a long-stick midfielder for Syracuse and one of the nation’s most highly-regarded freshman players. He scored 55 goals and added 48 assists for a school-record 103 points last season.
White finished his CHS career with 162 goals, tying another school record, and 112 assists for a program-record 274 points.
Also lost to graduation were fellow first-team all-leaguers Zack Zayac in goal and midfielder Theo Bishop. Zayac, now at Division I Hobart, made 214 saves with a 5.08 goals-against average. Bishop was fifth on the team in scoring with 30 goals and 18 assists.
Other crucial losses were attackman Taylor Brown (who scored a team-high 58 goals and is now at Stevens Tech), midfielder Jay Hartnett (21 goals-7 assists, now at SUNY Brockport), midfielder Dan Leonard (15-8), midfielder Nick Becker (6-1) and midfielder Brendan Schreiner (1-1).
In all, 186 of last season’s 285 goals and 97 of the 172 assists left the program last graduation day.
Back for this season are a pair of 2007 first-team all-league defensemen in Jesse Brown and Chris Fernandes. Other returning seniors are second-team all-leaguer Jack Spallone (attack/midfield, 43-50, second in scoring on the ‘07 team), Nate Thomas (midfield/attack, 33-19), Brad Rogers (attack-midfield, 12-2), Brian Sypher (attack/midfield, 2-0-2), Mike Hartnett (midfield-attack, 1-1, Jay’s brother), Matt Marks (defense, 1-1), Matt Pitcher (defense, 0-1), Kyle Peterson (defense), Brett Miller (defense), Steve Planck (defense) and Travis Carruthers (goalie, 32 saves. 6.60).
Returning juniors are midfielders Allen Kryger and Joe Rosetti.
The newcomers are juniors Jake Bryson (goalie), Matt Herbert (attack-midfielder), Will Fickenscher (midfield), Mike Gates (attack-midfield) and Dencil Daniels (midfield) plus sophomores Dan Miller (attack-midfield, Brett’s brother) and Brandon Planck (attack-midfield, Steve’s brother).
“The kids have worked very, very hard in the off-season, both conditioning-wise and in terms of playing,” head coach John Spallone said. “One key for us will be staying healthy. I don’t know that we have the depth that we had last year. We have to do a few things very, very well, too.
“We have to be as fundamentally sound as possible defensively; offensively, Jack is the quarterback and runs that segment and, while you don’t replace a player like Joel, Nate has blossomed out there. And Travis is doing a nice job in goal.”
Coach Spallone said that the team’s 13 seniors are its strength, noting: “They’re all experienced, good players who understand the game, have improved and work well together. A good chemistry is forming among them. I don’t see any particular area of weakness; the kids continue to work very, very hard, and we’re going to develop very nicely. I look at this season with guarded optimism.
“We pretty much set the same goals for ourselves every year; we want to compete for the league title. Make sectionals and improve overall in the team game we play during the course of the season.”
Coach Spallone said, “The league (OHSL Class B) is going to be incredibly competitive. Jamesville-DeWitt (defending league, sectional Class B and state Class B champion) will be strong —they return a lot — while East Syracuse-Minoa returns one of the best four-or five-man midfields in the entire league, Homer is solid and New Hartford returns a couple of unbelievable defensemen.
“Chittenango, Whitesboro and Fulton have all improved and will be a lot stronger. There’s tremendous balance; every game will be close, which is 10 times better for you going into sectionals.”
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