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April 5, 2012

 

Dragons upend another ranked foe

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

Over an impressive 11-minute stretch in the opening half, SUNY Cortland men displayed why they are considered the No. 2 ranked Division III lacrosse team in the land.
That’s when the Red Dragons struck for nine unanswered goals in a relative blink of an eye to turn an early 2-1 deficit into a 10-2 lead against Western New England on a breezy Wednesday afternoon at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
With sophomore attackman Cody Consul scoring a career-high five goals, the Red Dragons went on to secure a 16-11 victory for their ninth triumph without a setback this spring. Five of those wins have come against ranked opponents.
But there was also a second half stretch that had the home folks and Cortland head coach Steve Beville scratching their collective noggins. The visitors out of Springfield, Mass. — ranked 16th in this week’s Division III national poll — took advantage of some uncharacteristic sloppy play by the Red Dragons to pull within 11-7 and create some Cortland concerns.
The Red Dragons recovered from that lapse by going on another spurt, scoring the opening five goals of the fourth quarter, to regain control of these proceedings.
“When you jump on a team like that early it’s kind of difficult to maintain the level of play that you were playing at in the first half,” said team captain Mike Tota of the Cortland letdown, the senior attackman contributing a handful of assists and a couple of goals to the win. “It’s going to be a challenge for us moving forward to really bring that intensity no matter what the score and not take a step backwards when we have a big lead.”
Consul and Tota were part of a starting attack trio that combined for 10 goals and nine assists, with senior attackman Greg Wright adding three goals and four assists to the winning cause. Midfielders Tom Casey, Nick Wolak, Jack Kennedy, Matt Rakoczy, Eric Richards and Zack Mulvaney were also goal-scorers for a Cortland team that had a 40-30 shot advantage.
On the other end of the field, Coach Beville was not as pleased.
“It’s a little disappointing with our defensive performance today,” said Beville, who singled out some Red Dragons who did not perform at their usual level in his eyes. “Part of it was their offensive push, but we certainly have to improve defensively if we want to win big games.
“We had a lull when we went up 10-2. Some guys relaxed a bit, especially on defense. It was just a lack of discipline and we were a little disappointed with the way we let them scratch back to within 11-7. It was just an overall disappointing effort,” he added.
STARTING WITH TWO goals late in the second half, the Golden Bears (5-3) chipped into an eight-goal deficit by out-scoring Cortland 5-1 over a span of eight minutes. When Sean Lawton picked out an upper corner with a hard shot just five minutes and 47 seconds into the second half, Western New England was within striking distance at 11-7.
The Golden Bears had chances to get to within three goals, too, especially a point blank opportunity thwarted by Red Dragons’ goalie Mike Kaminski.
Cortland seniors helped steady things, starting with a Wright man-up goal from close range 58 seconds into the fourth quarter. Wright then latched onto a wayward Consul shot behind the cage and fed Tota in front for the a goal and a 13-7 lead with 8:41 left to play. Wright was found alone in front by senior midfielder Matt Hoey 55 seconds later for a goal, senior midfielder Richards was rewarded for a cut to the crease by a Wright assist moments later and Cortland was out of trouble.
Senior middie Mulvaney scored a man-up goal with 3:51 remaining — Cortland a perfect 3-for-3 in man-ups for the game — and the Red Dragons had a nine-goal bulge. Western New England scored the last four goals against Cortland back-ups to create a more respectable final margin.
“It’s typically what Cortland does. They go on those runs,” said Western New England coach John Klepacki. “They get it done in a lot of different ways and they stretch you out a little bit. I’m proud of how our guys recovered. I thought they fought right up to the end. We just can’t give up those runs.”
Senior midfielder Patrick White had five goals for the Golden Bears, while fellow middies Lawton and James Reardon had two-goal games. Western New England came into the game having beaten Nichols 15-9 in a league game the previous afternoon.
“It was a good opportunity to get up here and play against the best,” said Klepacki of scheduling games on consecutive days, adding he didn’t feel the travel had any affect on his squad. “I think we started the game out all right, but it was just that run in the second (quarter) that was tough.”
DOWN 2-1 EARLY, Cortland took control starting with Casey rolling off a check and beating diminutive Western New England senior goalie Brewster Knowlton (8 saves) from close range.
Consul had three of his goals during that nine-goal spurt, where the nicest finish came to open the second quarter. That’s when long-stick midfielder Kennedy took a feed from Tota for a quick-stick flick past opposing goalie Knowlton, who was scrambling in the crease.
Three goals scored in less than a minute finished off the run that built up that 10-2 lead. Freshman Rakoczy swept to his left and scored, a fast break off the ensuing faceoff led to a Wright point-blank tally off a Tota pass and Tota flipped in behind-the-head shot in front off a Wright feed in that impressive flurry.
It was all good stuff for a Cortland team had has knocked off a slew of ranked opponents en route to going 9-0, and now has only the rest of its SUNY Athletic Conference schedule and non-league games with Clarkson and Nazareth remaining.
“We’ve gone through our gauntlet of schedules here,” noted Tota. “We still have some good teams on our schedule, so we’re not going to take anyone lightly or overlook anyone. We’re just going to play hard and take it one game at a time, keep the boys focused and be ready to go.”
“Clarkson’s going to beat someone, and Nazareth is a good rivalry game,” noted Beville of the final seven games on the Cortland schedule, which resumes with a home conference contest against Oneonta Saturday at 3:30 p.m. “And our league is better than it’s ever been, so we’re not going to take anything for granted.”

 

 

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