April 15, 2010
Dragons ‘D’ delivers crucial win
DiStefano’s goal at 0:43 lifts Cortland past rival Geneseo
On this low-scoring occasion, it only seemed fitting for the decisive play in Wednesday afternoon’s lacrosse drama at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex to come from the defense.
A pass pilfered by SUNY Cortland junior close defenseman Justin Schneidman in the final minute led to a fast break goal by junior attackman Jay DiStefano with just 43 seconds left in this crucial conference clash, enabling the Red Dragons to escape with a 4-3 victory over rival Geneseo.
DiStefano’s second goal of the game capped a frantic fourth quarter comeback for the defending national champions. Cortland came up with three unanswered goals in that final stanza to keep a seven-game unbeaten streak intact and remain unbeaten against SUNY Athletic Conference foes.
“All wins are good, against anybody, whether it’s Geneseo or anybody else,” said relieved Cortland coach Steve Beville, the Red Dragons now 2-0 in conference play and 8-2 overall. His team came into the game ranked fourth nationally in Division III, with Geneseo holding down the No. 9 spot in that same poll.
“We showed we can win a really tight game. That’s the second one-goal game against a good northern team,” he added, referring to Cortland’s 12-11 overtime victory at RIT back on March 31. “It’s going to help us in our quest for home field advantage in the SUNYACs and the NCAAs.”
That’s what this game meant more than anything else, the winner in position to capture a regular season crown and get to stay home once the conference playoffs get underway in early May. Now with a 2-1 conference record and a 7-2 overall mark, Geneseo would need a lot of help to claim the regular season title.
“It’s a rivalry game, so everyone’s kind of running their mouth, so it was nice to get the last laugh out there,” said Schneidman after making his huge play and assisting on the final goal. “First off, we don’t have to travel to Geneseo and play them there at the end of the year, which is huge for us. It’s just a huge game we look forward to every year, so it’s great to be the victor. It was a dog fight, a total team effort.”
“It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done and we knew we couldn’t lose to these guys,” said DiStefano, who now has 14 goals this season. “And also the big thing is not going there for SUNYACs. Their field is not all that nice.”
The final goal was a nice finish to a frustrating day where Cortland didn’t have much to show for a 38-23 shot advantage, thanks to a stingy Knights defense featuring Homer Central graduate Joe May and anchored by steady senior goalie Dennis Costanza.
“HE HAD SOME great saves but we definitely helped him out,” said DiStefano after Costanza collected 16 saves. “He’s definitely a great goalie, I’m not going to take that away from him, but I don’t think we helped ourselves shooting stick-side high mostly for 50 percent of the game.”
Down 3-1 heading into the final 15-minute period, Cortland took advantage of the lone Geneseo penalty of the day to score 40 seconds into the fourth quarter. Attackman Mike Tota took a feed in front from middie Chris DeLuca, and his twirling backhand shot beat Costanza on that extra-man opportunity.
The tying Red Dragon tally arrived with 5:42 left, as senior midfielder Brandon Misiaszek broke free and picked out a corner of the Geneseo net.
Both teams had scoring chances to break the deadlock, including an open look Geneseo’s Tim Hayden fired off target that led to the visitors calling a timeout with 1:48 left to talk over final strategy. Shortly thereafter, a Geneseo cross-crease passing attempt ended up in Schneidman’s anticipating long pole.
The 6-foot-6 Schneidman legged the ball downfield and went directly to goal, finally dishing off for a shot DiStefano rifled past Costanza.
“We work on the fast breaks, the 4-on-3s, a lot in practice and I just saw it coming,” said DiStefano. “The Geneseo guy slid pretty late to him, he let Justin get pretty close to the goal. I was like seven yards out and I knew I was shooting it when I got it.”
Though the ensuing face-off taken by DeLuca went Cortland’s way when long-stick midfielder Jack Kennedy came up with a ground ball pick-up, the Red Dragons turned the ball over with 24.7 seconds left by stepping out of the offensive box. The clock inadvertently ran after that infraction. So after a Geneseo rush upfield went unrewarded and the scoreboard buzzer blared leading to a short-lived Cortland celebration, officials eventually put eight seconds back on the clock and gave Geneseo a final possession.
The Knights last attempt to get to the Cortland crease was denied by Schneidman and Cortland had its crucial victory.
“CORTLAND’S A TEAM that doesn’t really care how you play the game. They’re just going to go hard and do the best they can and they expect to be on the right side,” said Geneseo coach Jim Lyons. “They didn’t panic, which is a testament to what Coach Beville has done over the past couple of years. But I was proud of our kids. We asked them to stick to a game plan and they did.”
Geneseo never trailed until the end.
The Knights were 2-1 halftime leaders on a pair of goals from sophomore attackman Brendan Kurpis. When middie Tim Hayden scored a fast break goal following a Cortland turnover with 3:26 left in the third period, the visitors were ahead 3-1.
Junior team captain May certainly helped the Knights hold down Cortland, asked to cover leading Cortland scorers DeLuca and attackman Brian Krol.
“Joe was an All-American last year and came into the season with high expectations and it has taken him a while to hit his stride and I think today he covered their best attackman in Krol and DeLuca, and I’m not sure either of them scored a point,” said Coach Lyons. DeLuca did pick up an assist on Cortland’s man-up goal.
“This was a statement game for Joe. I think he stepped up and said I want to be the best defenseman on the field, and I think he was tonight,” added Lyons.
The Schneidman-led Cortland defense was just as stingy, holding Geneseo scoreless over the final 18 minutes as freshman goalie Mike Kaminski had some stellar denials among his six saves. This was certainly a low-scoring game Coach Beville certainly didn’t expect, considering Cortland came in averaging 13 goals per game.
“We really thought we’d be up in double digits. We just shot very poorly, with poor shot selection,” said Beville, hoping to reverse that trend when the Red Dragons visit Potsdam on Saturday. “We shot poorly and we played with very little poise today. It was very disappointing all around, but at the end of 60 minutes we had one more goal than the other team and that’s what you shoot for.”
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