May 5, 2011
Few worries for Dragons
Reach finals beating Brockport
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Mike Sanderson (9) of Brockport gets his stick caught on the jersey of Jack Kennedy of SUNY Cortland during Wednesday’s conference playoff semifinal at the Stadium Complex. Top-seed Cortland grabbed a 13-5 victory.
While SUNY Cortland men took a successful first step into the lacrosse post-season, this wasn’t the emphatic statement the top-seeds were seeking.
Freshman midfielder Joe Slavik scored four goals, senior stalwart Justin Schneidman anchored a defense that held visiting Brockport scoreless over a 32-minute stretch of time and the Red Dragons had few worries scoring a 13-5 victory over the visiting Golden Eagles in Wednesday afternoon’s SUNY Athletic Conference semifinal playoff contest.
Still, after getting off 57 shots over over 60 minutes of play during another gray day at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex, Coach Steve Beville provided this observation of how his nationally fourth-ranked squad had performed.
“You like to build a little positive momentum going into your league championship game and the NCAAs, but I don’t feel like we did a lot of that today,” said Beville. “But I’m not complaining. We’ll take the win and we’ll move on and we’ll take whoever we get Saturday.”
That would be second-seed Potsdam, who won a wild 18-17 home field shoot-out in the other SUNYAC semifinal over third-seed Geneseo.
The surprising Bears (8-8) and defending champion Red Dragons (14-2) will now meet at 4 p.m. back at the Stadium Complex on Saturday to crown a conference champion, with the winner earning an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III tournament. During a regular season visit to Cortland back on April 23, Potsdam fell to the Red Dragons 14-2.
Brockport, which closed out the regular season with three consecutive victories to sneak into these conference playoffs, finished 6-8 overall for 11th year head coach Ben Wineburg.
“It was our first time ever making SUNYACs in 11 years,” noted Brockport’s junior midfielder Nate Thomas, a Cortland High alum who picked up an assist before the home folks. “We’ve come close the past two years I’ve been here and I’m glad we could be here.
“We had to win our last three games — against Plattsburgh, who we weren’t supposed to beat, and we weren’t suppose to get by Oneonta, and we beam them both,” he added, Brockport nipping Plattsburgh 11-10 and Oneonta 14-13. “And then we beat Oswego, who I’ve never beaten.”
That 16-9 win over Oswego to finish off the regular season pulled Brockport into a fourth place tie in the standings with Plattsburgh, and the Golden Eagles had the head-to-head tie-breaker in their favor.
BROCKPORT USED used this playoff opportunity to score a mere 1:39 into the game, freshman Bryon Palmer with that quick goal. That provided thoughts of avenging a double-digit regular season loss to Cortland.
Instead, the visitors would not score again until early in the third quarter mostly because of some serious turnover trouble. The final turnover count against the Golden Eagles would reach 32.
Meanwhile, Cortland was scoring three times in both the first and second periods to secure 6-1 control by the time halftime arrived. Slavik netted his third goal on a low shot 52 seconds into the second half, senior midfielder Chris DeLuca was wide open in front to turn a Greg Wright assist into a goal two minutes later and the Cortland lead swelled to 8-1.
Brockport ended its drought with a pair of goals 29 seconds apart — senior Andy Hilton scored the first of his team-high two goals with his side a man-up, followed by a Brendon Rothfuss tally off the Thomas assist — to provide some glimmer of third quarter hope for the Golden Eagles.
Cortland quickly restored order, scoring four unanswered goals over the final 4:15 of that same third stanza. The spurt started with a junior midfielder Eric Richards also going low to beat busy Brockport goalie Jon Fiorillo, who finished with 17 saves. Junior attackman Mike Tota, Slavik and senior attackman Jay DeStefano all struck before the third period ended with the home side enjoying 12-3 breathing room. Beville was able to turn to his bench for the majority of the final 15 minutes.
Cortland’s attack was productive as DeStefano finished with two goals and two assists, Tota picked up a pair of goals and now has a team-high 37 despite being the focus of the Brockport defense and Wright picked up three assists to go along with a goal. Neal Hopps and Eric Richards were also among the Red Dragon goal scorers.
Cortland’s sophomore goalie Scott Tota finished with three saves and is a perfect 10-0 in his starts between the pipes. DeLuca won six of the eight faceoffs he took, while the 6-foot-6 Schneidman was at his disruptive best on a defense that forced nine of Brockport’s turnovers.
“I THINK A much improved, hard-working Brockport team really stepped up and gave us some hard times in spots,” noted Beville. “Fundamentally, we were pretty poor in some things. Our ground ball work wasn’t exemplary.”
Cortland did win the ground ball battle 46-37, and had just a slight 12-10 faceoff advantage.
The Cortland win was also costly when sophomore long-stick midfielder Sean Davern injured his knee with 2:30 to go in the first quarter. He tried to come back but was unable to continue, and Beville wasn’t optimistic about Davern’s immediate return.
Brockport is optimistic about the future, hoping to build off this playoff experience and late-season surge.
“Losing 13-5 is the best we’ve ever held them to, so that’s a plus for next year,” noted Thomas.
“I’m proud of the way our seniors played. I’m proud of the way we all played,” he said. “We kind of stuck together, we didn’t get down on each other at all even though we were down. But Cortland’s great and I hope they can take it all the way.”
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