April 12, 2012
Unbeaten Dragons up to the challenge
Slavik’s four goals help to subdue Knights
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Doug Meehan (39) rubs shoulders with Geneseo’s John Wettack (12) in the first quarter of Wednesday’s SUNYAC contest. Meehan scored a goal in the Red Dragons’ 15-8 victory.
It has not been all that easy for SUNY Cortland sophomore Joe Slavik to adapt to his new role of being the top midfield scoring threat on this undefeated lacrosse squad.
Just like it was not all that easy for the nationally second-ranked Red Dragons to get untracked in Wednesday’s conference match-up with Geneseo, the hosts eventually overcoming an early deficit by scoring six unanswered goals en route to a 15-8 victory at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
Slavik scored a season-high four goals, the Red Dragons’ explosive attack got rolling after intermission and the defense held Geneseo scoreless for a decisive 24-minute stretch as first place Cortland improved to a perfect 11-0 on the season and 3-0 in SUNY Athletic Conference play.
After having scored 31 goals as a rookie to go along with 14 assists a year ago playing alongside two-time Division III ‘Midfielder of the Year’ Chris DeLucia, Slavik was expected to continue that torrid scoring pace this spring. The redhead out of Seton Catholic Central in Binghamton came into yesterday’s contest with just seven goals on the season, however, on Cortland’s first midfield unit.
“That was such a welcoming sight,” said Cortland head coach Steve Beville of Slavik’s offensive outburst that helped keep dangerous Geneseo win-less. “What did Joe get, four? He hasn’t had a goal in the last five games, so it was great to see him cut lose a little bit.”
It was a relief for Slavik, too,
“Their long poles weren’t bad. They were big guys, a little slow on their feet, so I got some space and got my shots off,” said Slavik of the Geneseo defenders.
“It’s been tough, a little different role this year,” he admitted. “Last year coming in we had the national ‘Player of the Year’ at the midfield line and he took all the attention away. It’s a little different role, so I’m working hard and just hoping for the best. It’s tough. We just have to keep grinding, but we’ll be fine.”
Senior Mike Tota had a three-goal hat trick, sophomore Cody Consul two goals to go along with a pair of assists and senior Greg Wright two goals and an assist on the potent Cortland attack that has carried much of the offensive burden this season.
But Slavik’s midfield mates stepped up, too, on this breezy and chilly afternoon as freshman Matt Rakoczy rifled home two goals and senior Zach Mulvaney picked up three assists. Defensive middie Doug Meehan and steady senior Eric Richards also netted goals for the Red Dragons, who held a 43-29 shot edge while handing Geneseo its’ seventh setback without a victory.
FIVE OF THOSE Geneseo stumbles this spring have been by frustrating one-goal margins, including a recent 11-10 loss to nationally ranked RIT. So Cortland came into the game knowing this was going to be a test, as the Red Dragons and Knights have traditionally been the top two SUNYAC clubs.
Of course, everyone gives No. 2 ranked Cortland its best shot.
“The guys have to realize everybody in every game is going to be fired up and give us the absolute best they can, and it’s never going to stop,” said Cortland coach Beville. “I don’t think we reacted really well to their intensity early in the game, and give them all the credit.”
First period goals by freshman attack Steven Kregan, senior attack Brendan Kurpis, senior midfielder Jeff Watson and sophomore middie John Wettack – the latter coming with 2:01 left in the opening quarter — gave the Knights a 4-3 lead before the Red Dragons defense and goalie Mike Kaminski (7 saves) clamped down.
“There isn’t anybody we can’t play with in the country. We just need to sustain an effort for 60 minutes and limit our mistakes,” said Geneseo coach Jim Lyons. “We’re just making too many mistakes and you can’t give Cortland — a team that’s as sharp and smart and as well-coached as they are — that many chances. And they had a lot more chances then they scored today, too. Our goalie was very, very good.”
Knights’ starting goalie Michael Greubel finished with 10 saves during his time patrolling the crease.
Down 4-3, Cortland regained control with three unanswered goals in the second period starting with Rakoczy pulling the Red Dragons even four minutes into the stanza with a high, hard shot. Tota scored the go-ahead goal with 3:29 left in the half at the tail end of a crisp Cortland clear before Slavik swept to his left to score moments later for a 6-4 halftime advantage.
TOTA OPENED THE second half with a goal from the left side off a Consul feed, Consul circled from behind the net to beat goalie Greubel and then scored again into an open net off a nifty Wright cross-crease feed to hike the Cortland advantage to 9-4.
Geneseo pulled back to within 9-6, only to have the next three goals come off Cortland sticks to pretty much settle the issue. Tota scored off a rebound of a shot by longstick midfielder Sean Davern that was saved and Rakoczy delivered another laser from afar to give Cortland an 11-6 lead to take into the final quarter.
Geneseo could not put a dent into that deficit, out-scored 4-2 over the final 15 minutes.
“You can’t be encouraged being 0-7. I don’t care how often you talk about moral victories and all those things, it’s impossible to feel good about anything at 0-7,” said Geneseo’s Lyons. “And yet, these players get over that and they work their butts off and they play as hard as anyone in the country. There isn’t a team we fear. We just have to put it together for 60 minutes.”
“They’re going to get theirs. That’s a pretty solid team right there,” praised Beville of the visiting Knights.
Of course, the Red Dragons have gotten all of theirs heading into Saturday’s 1 p.m. visit to Brockport — even if this victory was a bit of a struggle after coming off a somewhat sloppy win over Oneonta last weekend.
“We’re missing a little something right now. Mike (Kaminski) was on his heels again early on, had a couple he should have stopped, and that kept them in it,” said Beville. “I give our guys credit, though. They’re tough and they’re determined that they want to win all these games. We came back and did what we had to do to pull away from them.”
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