April 29, 2013
Dragons wrap up title turning back Fredonia
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Maria Di Fato (16) moves the ball behind the net with Chelsea Maderer (8) applying pressure in the first period of Saturday’s lacrosse outing. Di Fato had four goals in the 16-9 Cortland win.
Though not all that pleased after squandering a seemingly comfortable lead, at least SUNY Cortland women can head into the post-season as regular season lacrosse champions fully capable of responding to a challenge.
That’s what the Red Dragons proved against a Fredonia team that arrived to town with its own first place aspirations on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Trailing by eight goals early in the second half, the feisty second place Blue Devils pulled to within 11-8 with just over 10 minutes left to play.
That’s when Cortland’s top two scorers — senior stalwart Maria Di Fato and frisky freshman Erica Geremia — stepped up to trigger a four-goal spurt that restored order in what turned into a 16-9 Red Dragons triumph.
That 13th consecutive victory wrapped up first place in the SUNY Athletic Conference for a Cortland squad ranked fourth nationally in Division III, as Coach Kathy Taylor’s stickers finish a perfect 8-0 in the conference while improving to 16-1 overall.
“I was pleased. This team has been playing really well,” said Coach Taylor, as Cortland will now host the SUNYAC Final Four this coming Friday and Saturday back at this Stadium Complex site.
“We had a lead so we had to respond when they cut it to three goals,” she added. “I’m proud of that, because our play picked up. We were more aggressive on the draws and did we had had to do.”
The second half scare sparked by Marissa Cussins, the Fredonia junior who had four goals and an assist on the day, was a positive heading into the conference tournament for the visitors, too.
The Blue Devils (14-2) were undefeated before losing 13-8 at Brockport just last Tuesday, when leading scorer and top draw-taker Katie Kleine — a junior out of Cazenovia — was lost for the season with a knee injury that will require surgery. Kleine was perched on a crutch cheering on her teammates from the Cortland sideline.
“What we take out of this game is that it was important for the girls to see that basically we can play with a top team even without our top scorer,” said Fredonia coach Chris Case, who only had a few days to prepare his side for the Red Dragons without his 40-goal and 25-assist top gun.
CORTLAND APPEARED in complete control, jumping out to a 9-2 halftime lead that grew to 10-2 when Di Fato worked her way to the crease in the opening minute of the second stanza and scored her third goal of the game.
And if diminutive 5 foot-3 inch Fredonia senior goalie Casey Chiesa had not made some very big saves to help negate Cortland’s lopsided 35-18 shot advantage, the Red Dragons’ lead could have been much, much larger.
That’s when Fredonia started to get the hang of life without Kleine via the passing of sophomore Katie Glagolev, and a four-goal spree capped by a senior Kaila Fox goal rifled into the upper portions of the Cortland net made this an 11-8 game with 10:13 still in the scoreboard clock.
Less than a minute later, Geremia was connecting on her second goal of the game before setting up a Di Fato putaway in front. The two exchanged roles, with Di Fato finding Geremia alone in front, for a 14-8 lead with 6:51 left to play. A free position finish by freshman Nicole Bello completed Cortland’s own four-goal response to second half trouble to put any fears to rest.
Di Fato finished with four goals and an assist, while Geremia had a three-goal hat trick and an assist. Tara Monaghan, Taylor Robinson and Gina Campese had two-goal outings for the Red Dragons, with Emma Hayes-Hurley and Liz Beville also among the Cortland goal-scorers.
Cussins had four goals and an assist for Fredonia, Fox tallied twice and Glagolev had three assists to go along with a goal.
“At different points of the game there are offensive things and there are defensive things, and there were times when both sides played really well and there were times when we didn’t,” was Coach Taylor’s summation.
TAYLOR WAS HAPPIER talking about the nine seniors who took bows before the game, as Di Fato, Campese, goalie Shauna Hutchinson, Melanie Melaniff, Meg Rowe, Laura Edward, Taylor Harney, Colleen Dougherty and Megan Milhaven were singled out.
“It’s nice to have those people out there,” said Taylor of a senior class that has a current record of 74 wins against a mere eight losses heading into tournament play. The past two seasons have included Final Four appearances in the NCAA Division III tournament, too.
Before testing their talents in this year’s NCAAs, Cortland will be out to win a SUNYAC playoff title — something they have done every season since 1999.
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