May 2, 2013
Romp past Bears has Dragons in title game
When this afternoon affair was finally over, it was hard to remember how at first glance SUNY Cortland’s initial post-season lacrosse venture had the appearance of being up for grabs.
Or as Coach Steve Beville put it of his Red Dragons: “In the first quarter we were far from overwhelming.”
Why the unbeaten SUNY Athletic Conference regular season champions and top seeds for this four-team playoff actually trailed Potsdam 2-1 heading into the final six minutes of the opening quarter.
Ah, but Cortland had no trouble erasing any early concerns. This unbeaten Cortland squad currently considered the No. 1 Division III team in the land simply turned this semifinal match-up into a mismatch — in overwhelming fashion.
With freshman faceoff man Pat Baldwin ensuring plenty of possessions, Cortland reeled off 13 unanswered goals breezed into the conference title game with a resounding 16-5 victory over the Bears.
Cortland (16-0) will now host second-seed Plattsburgh (14-3) at noon on Saturday back at this same Stadium Complex site in the title game.
After closing out the regular season with a 10-5 victory over Potsdam just this past Saturday, this quick rematch turned lopsided as Cortland pulled the trigger on 49 shots on a gloriously warm and sunny afternoon. Ten different players produced goals, freshman Zach Hopps leading the way with four tallies and a pair of assists.
Three of those Hopps goals came when Cortland out-scored Potsdam 8-zip in the second quarter.
“The last game we didn’t play our best, made a lot of offensive turnovers,” noted junior attackman Cody Consul, who contributed a pair of assists and a goal to the Cortland victory. “We were definitely excited to come back out, were hungry to play these guys again.”
Of course, Cortland is hungry to return to the NCAA title game for a second consecutive season, too — this being the first step towards that ultimate goal.
“Coach always says we have three phases to the season,” said Consul. “We’ve got regular season as the first phase, the SUNYACs the second phase and the third phase is always the big one, the playoffs. So our guys are excited and ready to go.”
POTSDAM SEEMED ready to spring a surprise getting an opening goal from frosh middie Pat Bonafede. When senior Pat Morrill skipped a shot past Cortland goalie Mike Kaminski for an extra-man goal with 6:07 left in the period, the Bears appeared dangerous with a 2-1 lead and a dose of confidence.
But with Cortland securing 10 of the next 12 faceoffs, and inducing turnovers on those rare occasions when Potsdam gained possession, things quickly turned bad for the Bears.
“Forty-two didn’t play the other day against us, but we knew how good he was facing off,” said Potsdam coach Rick Berkman, referring to No. 42 Baldwin’s work that helped Cortland secure 16 of the 24 faceoffs taken.
“I felt good about it when we had the ball with our first unit out there,” added Berkman. “We were getting some good looks, but in that second quarter he won every faceoff and our defense gets tired. It’s hard to play defense when you’re tired against a team like that.”
Tuckering out the Bears was part of the Cortland game plan.
“We set out to make it a high-pressure game, right off the bat with the heat,” said Cortland head man Beville. “We finally got some hot weather and we knew we were going to run a lot more guys than they were, so it behooved us to play an up-tempo game and they couldn’t handle it.”
Berkman agreed, saying: “They out-numbered us with the athletes today, and our hats off to them and good luck in the playoffs.”
Cortland closed out the first quarter getting goals from midfielder Matt Rakoczy and frosh attackman James Stavrakis to take a 3-2 lead into the second quarter, when the Red Dragons could do no wrong.
Consul got things rolling with a goal 1:22 into the period, and then found a cutting Benjamin Dunlavey open in front some two minutes later. After taking a nice cross-crease pass from Hopps, junior middle Joe Slavik picked out an upper corner and with 10:28 still left before halftime, Cortland was up 6-2.
THE RED DRAGONS were fare from done.
At 7:08 on that second quarter, Dunlavey pounced on a rebound after a shot by teammate Andrew Billups and scored.
At 5:58, midfielder Thomas Casey was driving to the crease and drawing defenders and dishing off for a Hopps goal. A mere 52 seconds later, Hopps was drawing a penalty and flinging home a goal while falling to the turf.
Slavik also drew a penalty before firing in a shot that put Cortland ahead 10-2 with 4:10 left prior to intermission, which led to a Hopps extra-man finish in front off a heads-up Slavik pass.
Once Hopps scored his fourth goal to get things rolling in the second half, everyone had to relocate their game programs to figure out who Coach Beville was putting on the field the rest of the way.
Back-ups Mike Cummings and Eric Ohman put away goals before the third period was over, hiking the lead to 14-2. Potsdam did have a 3-2 scoring edge over the final 15 minutes, sophomore Hunter Osborne out of Homer and Cummings with Cortland’s late tallies.
“It think the guys just said, ‘Okay, let’s go.,’” said Beville. “We needed to start building momentum for the (NCAA) tournament, and I think we have a good Plattsburgh team coming in here Saturday.”
Plattsburgh topped third-seed Brockport 15-7 in the other semifinals. The Cardinals will play for a SUNYAC title for the first time in school history against a Cortland team that just has so many weapons.
“Having so many threats, it’s tough to stop us,” noted Consul. “We’ve got defensive middies coming down and making plays, we’ve got defensemen coming down and making plays, so it works out real well. We’re playing really well as a team right now.”
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