May 7, 2007
Red Dragon women romp to 9th straight league title
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Andrea Venditti works against SUNYBrockport defender Karen Dillon during Saturday’s conference championship lacrosse game. Venditti scored twice in 12-3 Red Dragon romp as Cortland captured its ninth straight SUNYACtitle.
After getting this job accomplished, Cynthia Wetmore asked her SUNY Cortland players to perform one last simple task before being excused to enjoy the rest of this sunny Saturday afternoon.
As the Red Dragons were huddled around their coach on the SUNY Cortland Sports Complex turf, Wetmore had her team pat themselves on the back.
Coach Wetmore felt that gesture was well deserved after Cortland captured a ninth consecutive SUNY Athletic Conference women’s lacrosse playoff title with relative ease Saturday afternoon. The top-seeds never trailed while beating second seed Brockport 12-3.
After all, this team turned things around from an uncharacteristic three-game losing streak earlier in the season. Cortland has reeled off 11 wins in a row heading into the NCAA Division III playoffs, where the Red Dragons reached the Final Four a year ago.
“They’ve really worked hard to get to this point,” said Wetmore, Cortland taking a 13-3 record and a No. 9 national ranking into the NCAA tournament. Cortland will host Western New England on Wednesday, the starting time still to be determined.
“Truthfully, we dropped a few games at the start of the season, but I never doubted, and they never doubted, their ability,” she added. “We knew this was going to be a work in progress and now we’re playing our best at the end of the season.”
Senior Jennifer Willis scored three goals and an assist to end the season for Brockport (12-4), the Golden Eagles making their first appearance in the title game since the inaugural 1997 game.
Senior Andrea Venditti, junior Elizabeth Acee and freshman Jessie Fritz each added two goals for the Red Dragons, who led 7-1 at halftime and were never threatened over the final 30 minutes of play.
Shutting down Brockport, which had nipped Geneseo 11-10 the previous day, was just as important. Freshman goalie Deanne Abell stood tall in goal and made six saves, and would be awarded with the tournament MVP trophy.
Coach Wetmore also praised the defensive efforts of senior Cici Carter, senior Jill Battaglia and sophomore Lindsay Bakker. “They’re the glue to the defense,” she said.
Carter certainly appreciated the work of Abell, a rookie from Fulton.
“She was awesome. I’m so comfortable with her back there,” said Carter. “She’s only a freshman, too, so she’s got quite a future here. She’s only going to get better.”
THIS GAME WAS tied early, a free position goal by Venditti matched by a Brockport’s Lindsey Cayea.
At the midway point of the period, however, Cortland scored three times within a span of 45 seconds. Acee was found open after a restart to put the Red Dragons ahead, Fritz converted a free position shot 20 seconds later and then Ali Bourgal hit a cutting Willis in stride cutting towards the crease for the third goal in that spurt.
Brockport never recovered, as goals by Willis, Ace and Venditti finished out a first half Cortland dominated.
“It’s always tough to beat a team twice, but it’s tournament time and you’ve got to get the job done,” said Carter, Cortland having topped Brockport 16-4 during a regular season showdown of teams sharing first place at the time.
“We really didn’t change anything, because we won the last time,” said Wetmore of the game plan heading into this rematch with the Golden Eagles. “It it works, don’t change it. I’m a firm believer in that.”
“We just come out ready to play our game, then that takes care of things all by itself,” added senior Bourgal, who added a goal and an assist to the Cortland victory.
The Red Dragons and Brockport exchanged tallies in the second half, with Cortland slowing the pace of the game down with its big lead. Beth Elmer and Willis scored for Cortland, with Jenny Baccile getting both Brockprt goals.
The Cortland lead was 9-3 heading into the final 10 minutes, when the Red Dragons pulled away for keeps. Fazio, Bourgal and Fritz scored unanswered goals for the final margin, frosh Fritz weaving a path through Brockport defenders for the final tally with 3:11 left to play.
WETMORE WAS ALL smiles talking about how freshmen Fritz and Abell have contributed to this late season surge, though it will be the seniors who were part of last year’s Final Four success that will determine this team’s post-season fate.
“We just have to work together, stick together,” said Bourgal of the challenges ahead for Cortland. “We are going to have to pick up our game and stay focused. We’ll be ready, though.”
“We’re going to face tougher competition than we faced here and we will have to be ready,” said Carter. “We have to stay focused and play good lacrosse.”
Which is what Cortland has been doing down the stretch of the season, including a 10-5 win over Oneonta in the semifinals when Cortland also had a 7-1 halftime lead.
“This could be our last home go, so it’s great having the SUNYACs here and coming away with the win,” said Carter after this conference crown was secured, not knowing they would return to their home field Wednesday.
Cortland’s Finch enjoys final fling
Turning to a freshman pitcher in a tense championship game situation worked out just fine for the SUNY Cortland softball squad on Sunday.
Rookie Katie Finch tossed a four-hitter with 12 strikeouts and no walks as the Red Dragons_defeated defending champion Plattsburgh 6-1 in the SUNY Athletic Conference tournament title contest.
The nationally 15th-ranked Red Dragons earned their eighth SUNYAC title overall and their third in the last five years under Coach Julie Lenhart.
Cortland (35-8) earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III playoffs, which begin this Thursday. Plattsburgh (31-12) came into the tournament ranked 19th nationally.
The Red Dragons will be hosting a seven-team Division III regional that runs Thursday until Sunday. Cortland, the second seed, will open play Thursday at 2 p.m. vs. seventh-seeded Elms College. Other teams in the double-elimination regional are top seed Rochester, third seed Ithaca, fourth seed Plattsburgh, fifth seed Keuka and sixth seed Pittsburgh-Bradford.
Finch retired the first 12 batters she faced before allowing a leadoff single to Ashley Napear in the fifth. Plattsburgh did not move a runner to second base until the seventh inning at Dragon Field.
Junior Annemarie Nelson finished 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. Senior Nicole Fredericks deliverd a two-run single and Tina Milani also drove in a run in the victory. Senior shortstop Jamie Neuner singled in the second inning to extend her hitting streak to 19 games.
Cortland’s scored two unearned runs in the first and added four runs in the second for a quick 6-0 lead. In the first, Milani singled with one out and Nelson doubled to put runners on second and third. With two outs, Fredericks reached on a throwing error that allowed two runs to score.
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Late Geneseo goal dethrones Dragons
SUNY Cortland men wanted to be the team to get off the last shot in regulation. That is why the Red Dragons used up most of the final two minutes in search of the go-ahead goal in this championship lacrosse shootout that was all tied up.
But when the Red Dragons failed to convert, leaving some precious seconds remaining to be ticked off the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex clock Saturday afternoon, it opened the door to disaster.
Visiting Geneseo would get the chance to get off the game’s final fling and took full advantage of that opportunity when senior midfielder Owahn Bazydlo set up teammate Erich Dahm for the game-winning goal with just 2.3 seconds left to play. That gave the second seed Blue Knights a 16-15 victory in this energetic and entertaining SUNY Athletic Conference playoff title game.
Geneseo (9-4) earned an automatic berth into the Division III tournament by standing up to a gritty Cortland comeback, as the defending champion Red Dragons battled back from a five-goal deficit to pull even twice in the fourth quarter.
The Red Dragons (12-5) had a nine-game winning streak snapped. That late-season success included a 9-7 victory at Geneseo, a triumph that enabled Coach Steve Beville’s stickers to finish first and unbeaten in the SUNYAC regular season.
At least this season isn’t over, which was Cortland’s biggest fear following the loss. The Red Dragons will get a chance to defend their Division III national title after receiving an at-large bid last night, Cortland to play St. Lawrence in Canton this Saturday.
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