May 10, 2007
Red Dragons on a roll
Open up NCAA play with 13th consecutive victory
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Jennifer Willis had two goals and an assist in Wednesday’s NCAA tournament victory over Western New England.
So much for the theory there are no easy games once the NCAA Division III tournament rolls around.
After giving up an early tally to Western New England in this first round affair played on a warm Wednesday afternoon, SUNY Cortland women certainly made things look easy by pumping in 13 unanswered goals in that opening half en route to a lopsided 16-4 victory.
Considering the rugged terrain awaiting the Red Dragons as this journey towards a national championship progresses, having such a smooth opening stretch should provide plenty of momentum heading into a challenging weekend.
Of course, the Red Dragons fully expected this game would test their mettle before making the Golden Bears from Massachusetts, Springfield to be exact, looked overmatched at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
“We always go into a game thinking it’s going to be the biggest game we will play, so in that sense it was a little surprising,” said senior voice of reason Gina Fazio of this post-season romp. She contributed two goals and an assist to Cortland’s 13th consecutive victory.
“We knew we had to bring it,” added classmate Jennifer Willis, who also had two goals and an assist while helping the Red Dragons possess the ball for most of the game by winning 16-of-22 draws. “In the NCAAs anyone can win so you have to bring it every game.”
The Red Dragons (15-3) will have to be ready this weekend for sure, when they head to Vermont for a four-team regional that starts Saturday. The College of New Jersey, the two-time defending national champion and an 8-6 winner over Cortland earlier this season, will be the next challenger for Coach Cynthia Wetmore’s squad at 2:30 p.m.
If Cortland can knock off that highly touted squad, a team they have beaten in past seasons, then regional host Middlebury would most likely be Sunday’s obstacle towards this bid to return to the Final Four for a second consecutive season.
“When we looked at it we said, whoa, there are some good teams there,” said Fazio of seeing TCNJ (11-2) and Middlebury (14-1) in Cortland’s regional bracket. “But we’ve really been playing well. We lost those games at the start of the season, but now we’re on a roll. We‘re playing our best lacrosse at the end of the season.”
Western New England, the champions of the New England Women’s Lacrosse Alliance Tournament who came into the game with a 14-5 record and an impressive 17.4 goals per game scoring average, can attest to Fazio‘s statement.
THE GOLDEN BEARS did arrive with goalie problems, sophomore starter Brie Sylvia having been lost for the season after suffering a concussion when bonked by a fallen goal five games ago. And coach Aimee Klepacki admitted finding a replacement has not an easy task.
Goalie or not, the Red Dragons simply had too many weapons. Lindsey Felton scored the first and last goals of the opening half for the visitors. In between those tallies, it was all Cortland.
Down 1-0, Willis broke free in front to quickly tie the game and then provided the heads-up pass that Fazio turned into a point blank go-ahead goal. And when Ali Bourgal tucked a shot into the upper corner on a free position scoring chance, the romp was on.
Having Willis win 13-of-16 first half draws helped for sure, as did some big saves from freshman goalie Deanne Abell and some other shots that clanged off the pipes.
“They won the draws and that killed us. They just possessed the ball,” said Coach Klepacki.
“It’s all about the draws, and when you win one that gives you a boost of confidence, too, ” said Willis.
Freshman Jessie Fritz had three goals as Cortland was building a 13-1 lead, including a long run from nearly midfield in which she weaved her way around three different Golden Bear defenders. Fazio, Willis, Bourgal and Andrea Venditti all had two goals in that opening half spurt, while Elizabeth Acee and Jill Battaglia also meshed shots.
And how did things go for the visitors in blue, whose mood starting matching their jersey color?
Well, take one first half instance.
Kayte Devine, a junior with 53 goals to her credit this season, had a free position scoring chance turned back by Abell before pouncing on the rebound. She then saw her follow shot glance off the left post. Moments later she got off another one-hopper, that also ricocheted off metal.
Abell, coming off an MVP performance in the SUNY Athletic Conference Tournament, finished with a handful of saves in helping to contribute to Western New England’s frustration before being replaced by senior Michelle Zimmer with 15 minutes left to play.
“We weren’t goal hungry,” felt Coach Klepacki, feeling the Golden Bears could have attacked the crease with a bit more vigor.
BOURGAL SCORED the opening two goals of the second half and Fritz cashed in once again to put the game away, both finishing with a team high four goals. Western New England scored twice in the late going with Red Dragon regulars resting and turning thoughts toward The College of New Jersey.
“I think it’s a benefit,” said Coach Wetmore of having this play-in game before regional play. “We got our jitters out with this first game. You could tell they were jittery in the first 10 minutes of the game.”
The College of New Jersey was one of eight teams in the field to receive byes.
“It’s going to give us some confidence,” added Wetmore of facing a familiar foe next. “In two of the past three years we’ve beaten them, so we know we can play with them. And we’ve seen them before, and that’s going to be an advantage.”
“We’ve beaten them before, and we almost beat them earlier this season when we were playing bad, so we know we can run with them,” said Fazio.
And though Cortland may be in the toughest bracket in the tournament, considering the Red Dragons are ranked ninth, TCNJ fifth and Middlebury third in the latest Division III national poll, to be the best you have to beat the best.
“When you want to be a national champion you have to be able to beat anybody,” said Willis.
Mieras pitches CHS to victory
CHITTENANGO — Pitching and defense did the job for Cortland High Wednesday in a 5-1 OHSL Freedom Division softball win over host Chittenango.
Natalie Mieras hurled a three-hitter and the infield made 14 assists for the Purple Tigers, now 3-9 in a season consisting entirely of league games. Mieras had one strikeout.
“This was another nice defensive game for us,” Cortland coach Mick Lowie said. “It was a very well-pitched game by Natalie, and we had some timely hitting with runners in scoring position. It’s nice to see their hard work paying off for the girls.”
Cortland scored once in the first as Brittany Babcock singled home Andrea Turcsik, who reached on an error and stole second. The Bears (0-10 league and overall) tied the score in the bottom of the first, and the Purple Tigers then scored four times in the third for the winning margin.
Chelsea Snyder tripled and scored on a single by Babcock, and one out later Kaleigh Smith, Taylor Foster and Heather Tier had consecutive RBI singles.
Mieras snagged a sixth-inning line drive and threw to first for a double play to end a Chittenango scoring threat. The loss went to eighth-grader Shelby Bogle in her second varsity start.
CORTLAND JVs collected 20 hits but were beaten by Chittenango 18-17 to fall to 2-9 on the season. Erica Turco and Taylor Hewes both tripled for Cortland, while Aubrey VanGorder, Lisa Dovi, Morgan VanGorder, Allison Prunier, Marlyss Darrow and Jamilla Fort all doubled.
Both Cortland teams visit Homer Monday.
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Sullivan comes through as Trojans triumph again
EAST SYRACUSE — The Homer Central tennis squad has a lone senior, and he came up big Wednesday afternoon.
Upperclassman Ryan Sullivan posted a huge three-set win at second singles to break a 3-3 tie and give the Trojans their second straight win. The 4-3 decision over host East Syracuse-Minoa improves the Trojans to 2-6 in OHSL Freedom and overall play.
In another local match, Mexico defeated Cortland High 5-2.
Homer 4, East Syracuse-Minoa 3: Sullivan lost the first set to Dino Omerovic by a 3-6 count, but bounced back in the second set to win 6-3. In the third set, Sullivan led 5-2 before holding for a 6-4 win and the deciding team point. It was the only three-set match of the night.
“Our hero this afternoon is Ryan Sullivan,” said Homer coach Nancy Cavellier. “Ryan pulled out a third set win. He made it interesting for a few games before finishing it off. Once again, though, everyone fought hard.”
Homer got also win from Chris Bauer and Jeff Eves in singles matches. Bauer won in straight sets (6-0, 6-1) against Andrew Linstrang at first singles while eighth-grader Eves won his second straight fourth-singles match with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Peter Gill.
The third team point came from the fourth doubles team of Andy Saraceno and Stephan Haugen, who posted a 6-4, 6-3 win over Matt Marriott and Ken Boddie.
Mexico 5, Cortland 2: The final score reflected the match perfectly Wednesday.
“The story of the match is pretty much the same down through the lineup,” Purple Tigers coach Bob Walrath said, his team now 4-5 in league play and 6-6 overall. “Mexico is a very athletic team. They hustled for every shot and handled the expected pressure a little better than we did.”
Cortland first singles player Steve Koltz lost for the first time in eight matches this season, 6-2, 7-6 (9-7) to Kevin Smith.
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