March 31, 2011
RIT rally dumps Red Dragons
Cortland defensive gaffe helps trigger Tigers’ 12-11 comeback
Despite coming into this showdown of nationally-ranked lacrosse squads unbeaten, RIT men were looking for an even nicer confidence boost.
Helped out by an uncharacteristic defensive gaffe from their cordial lacrosse hosts, the Tigers from Rochester got just that while coming from behind to knock off fourth-ranked SUNY Cortland 12-11 in Wednesday afternoon’s non-conference match-up.
RIT, ranked fifth in this week’s NCAA Division III national poll, overcame 7-2 and 10-7 deficits at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex for their sixth win without a stumble this season. A handful of unanswered goals erased that final Cortland advantage, a run of success started when the Red Dragons scored into their own goal with 6:11 left in the third quarter.
Junior attackman Tyler Russell tied the game at 10-10 with a shot from the right wing with 8:31 left to play, RIT made Cortland pay for a defensive double-team attempt to get a go-ahead goal from senior midfielder Chris Cherami with 6:30 remaining and senior attackman Iric Bressler scored into an empty net with 29 seconds left for what proved to be the game-winner.
“It’s great for the program, obviously. But more than anything else, it gives our guys a great sense of confidence,” said RIT’s Jake Coon after the victory, the second-year head coach a former Homer Central goalie and Nazareth College All-American.
“That was something I thought we were lacking last year,” added Coon, whose Tigers lost to Cortland last year in the regular season by this same 12-11 margin before being beaten by the Red Dragons 15-7 in the NCAA Division III playoff quarterfinals. “As you can see we’re working on that and a big win like that gets us over the edge, over the hump. A win like this gives us that confidence.”
Meanwhile, after opening the season with four convincing victories the Red Dragons have dropped back-to-back games — this Cortland’s first outing since suffering a 10-8 loss to third-ranked Stevenson in Maryland back on March 19.
Despite a 37-30 shot edge, despite winning 18-of-27 faceoffs, despite getting three goals from freshman midfielder Joe Slavik and four assists from senior middie Chris DeLuca, Cortland heads into Saturday’s SUNY Athletic Conference opener at Oneonta stumbling a bit.
“SLOPPY, LACK OF fundamentals, cockiness, laziness,” were the list of Red Dragon ailments cited by coach Steve Beville after this disappointment.
“I’ve got too many guys playing cocky out there. We got lazy,” he added. “RIT, we knew they were scrappy and they take advantage of transition and they hit you. And that’s exactly what happened. We got lazy and they nailed us.”
Despite having not played in 11 days, a scheduled game at Nazareth last week postponed by bad weather, Cortland got seven goals from seven different players while taking control of things early.
Slavik’s first goal and DeLuca’s first assists came two minutes into the game. DeLuca saved a potential turnover from going out of bounds, attacked the goal and fed Slavik for a low shot to get things rolling.
The lead was 6-2 at the end of the first quarter as midfielder Neal Hopps, attackman Chris Wright, long-stick midfielder Sean Davern, attackman Mike Tota and attackman Mark Panneton all scored for the Red Dragons.
Davern’s goal came just six seconds after Cherami opened the RIT scoring, DeLuca winning the ensuing faceoff and setting up the sophomore for his first goal of the season. Tota’s goal that put Cortland up 5-1 was the 100th of the career for the junior out of Rochester area’s Webster Schroeder — Tota the 20th player in school history to achieve that milestone.
And when DeLuca scored in the opening minute of the second quarter, his high and hard shot coming off a feed from attackman Jay DiStefano, the Cortland lead was 7-2.
Five minutes and five RIT goals later, things were tied. It took a Slavik goal midway through the second period to put Cortland back up 8-7, which was the halftime score.
SLAVIK AND TOTA added third period goals for a 10-7 lead before things started falling apart — starting with the Red Dragons big mistake. After securing a ground ball in front of the Cortland crease, a defender tried to flip a pass back to goalie Mike Kaminski for a clearing attempt only to have that effort slip past the sophomore and into the goal.
Junior midfielder Jordan Collins-Hartwig was credited with that gift goal for RIT, part of his three goal and two assist showing. And that triggered this RIT comeback.
“I think we’ve been talking about believing in ourselves and playing with confidence and swagger and sticking together,” said Coon of RIT’s resiliency. “We’ve already had to do that this year and it builds character, and I think this group has a lot of character. We have to play an even game whether we’re up or down, so give the players credit.”
Give Cortland credit for having a chance to force overtime, too.
After RIT’s Bressler scored into that empty net against a scrambling Red Dragons defense in the final minute, DeLuca won the ensuing faceoff and Neal Hopps scored with 18 seconds left to play.
DeLuca also seemed to have gained possession for the Red Dragons on the following faceoff, but RIT’s Avery Hallett forced a turnover, Cortland took a penalty and RIT was able to kill off the remaining seconds.
“Our senior defense was an absolute joke today, an absolute joke,” said Bellville, the dozen RIT goals the most given up by the Red Dragons this season. “For our senior defensemen, who really haven’t had too many bad games, today was like being a fifth grader. I have no explanation for that.”
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