May 9, 2016
Champ Cortland survives challenge from Brockport
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Hannah Elmer, of Cortland State of SUNY Cortland (left) ducks the stick of Lauren Mancini of Brockport in Saturday’s SUNYAC title game. Elmer had three goals in Cortland’s 16-11 victory.
Having won the vast majority of their previous 17 games by double-digit margins, how did it feel for the unbeaten SUNY Cortland women’s lacrosse team to find themselves so severely contested chasing after a conference playoff crown?
“It’s fun,” insisted second year head coach Kelly Lickert-Orr of seeing her Red Dragons forced to respond to some second half pressure before knocking off Brockport 16-11 for the title.
The second-seeded Golden Eagles were providing plenty of Cortland concerns in Saturday’s SUNY Athletic Conference championship matinee, the visitors within a goal of the defending national champions with just 23:09 left to play at the Stadium Complex before the Red Dragons pulled away.
It was the closest any opponent has come to knocking off the nation’s No. 1 ranked Division III stick squad, a 16-9 home field win over second-ranked The College of New Jersey back on March 26 the previous closest call for Cortland.
Brockport actually out-shot the Red Dragons 26-24, which is why Cortland junior goalie Jaclyn Beshlian was named the tournament MVP after an 11-save showing in the finals.
“It feels good. It’s something we’re not used to so it gives us a little practice,” said Beshlian after the 18-0 Red Dragons secured an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III tournament with their 37th consecutive victory. “I like the pressure. It makes me play better.”
Junior Kristen Ohberg and freshman Carly Stone both had four goals and an assist for a Cortland team that has won every conference championship game since its inception in 1997. Cortland will now host a second round game Sunday in the NCAAs, to face the Keene State versus Castleton first round winner.
“We knew they were a good team and they were going to come out and play well,” said Coach Lickert-Orr of Brockport, Cortland having beaten the Golden Eagles 17-7 in a regular season game that was tied up at 6-all at halftime. “They gave us a game last time. Obviously, there a different mentality being that it’s a SUNYAC championship game. It puts more pressure on.”
KELLY WALL AND Jessica Boddery had three-goal outings as Brockport fell to 14-3, as back-to-back Wall tallies pulled the Golden Eagles within 9-8 and caused Cortland to call for a time-out at the 23:09 mark of the second half.
Rookie Stone out of Jamesville-DeWitt then scored twice within a two-minute span, the first on a fast break assist by Nicole Bello before scoring on a free position opportunity. Ohberg then emerged from behind the crease to tuck away another goal and the Red Dragons were ahead 12-8 and danger had been averted.
Brockport did not get closer than three goals the rest of the way.
“The whole goal of this game was to just fight from start to finish, which we didn’t do last time,” said Brockport coach Stephen Wagner. “If we keep putting together 60 minutes and start executing some of the opportunities we have at the end.... but we’re on the right trajectory.”
Cortland jumped out to an 8-3 lead behind senior Ashley Gentile, who had three goals and an assist during that stretch while at one time capturing seven straight draws against formidable Brockport opponent Ciara McKeon. Ohberg scored twice during that stretch of success, with Hannah Elmer, Tara Monaghan and Stone also with first half goals.
Brockport closed out the opening half with Hannah Cullen and Makensie Schuber goals to get within 8-5 and then made a second half spurt that required the Red Dragons’ best.
“They were doing a good job capitalizing on their opportunities and we were forcing some of ours. That kept them in the game,” said Cortland’s Lickert-Orr.
THE RED DRAGONS just have so many weapons they are hard to hold down, as Gentile finished with three goals and two assists. Elmer also collected a three-goal hat trick, Monaghan had two goals and an assist and Bello picked up a pair of assists.
Cortland averages just over 18 goals per game this season.
McKeon started dominating draws in the second half. Cortland switched things up and used Cortland High alum Liza Ferro there, and she had some success slowing down the Brockport senior who still gave her side a 16-13 edge in draw controls.
Coming off a championship season also has its benefits for Cortland.
“Every team gives us a fight and it’s just whoever comes out the hardest, I guess. It definitely helps me a great deal. It helps me stay calm and keep my focus and do what I have to do,” said goalie Beshlian of being experienced in big games.
Beshlian would be joined on the all-tournament team by fellow Red Dragons Gentile, Monaghan, Ohberg and solid senior defender Colleen Wright.
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