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May 10, 2012

 

Red Dragons dominate tourney opener

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

Prior to this NCAA Division III tournament opener, a hopeful Castleton State women’s lacrosse fan on hand to support the visitors from Vermont held up a homemade poster proclaiming her team as being “The Real C-State.”
These first-time participants in the NCAA tournament proved to be no match, however, for the other ‘C-State’ on the premises more formally known as SUNY Cortland. The nationally second-ranked Red Dragons began their national title quest with a lopsided 22-6 victory on their Stadium Complex home turf on Wednesday afternoon, stretching an unbeaten habit to 17 consecutive games.
“It was a good start,” said Coach Kathy Taylor after eight different players scored goals for the Red Dragons, who advanced to the national semifinals a year ago and started this season with the highest of aspirations. “We have some areas we have to button up a little bit before we go into the weekend, but it’s a nice start. It’s always nice to have a big win like that and be able to play your full team.”
The Red Dragons were 5-1 leaders just six minutes and 19 seconds into this game, led a 12-3 by the time halftime arrived and breezed through a second half where running time was kept once the hosts went ahead by double digits.
“Once you come to the tournament you’re just excited to play and ready to get on with the playoffs,” said senior midfielder Lindsay Abbott, who led Cortland with four goals and six assists. “We had to come out and play our game to set up for this weekend.”
This weekend will have the Red Dragons hosting a four-team regional on Saturday and Sunday back at the Stadium Complex, with the survivor moving on to the Final Four being played May 19-20 at Montclair State in New Jersey.
Cortland ( 18-1) will face Virginia’s Mary Washington (14-4) at 12:30 p.m. in the opening contest on Saturday, with Massachusetts’ Amherst (13-4) taking on The College of New Jersey (15-3) at 3:30 p.m. The winners of those second round games face-off in the quarterfinals Sunday at 1 p.m.
Castleton State (12-7) arrived to Cortland having won nine of its last 10 games while averaging 15 goals per contest. The Spartans also arrived with a pretty youthful squad with no post-season experience, midfielder Angelica Mazzola — who led her side with three goals — the lone senior on Coach Mary Kate Scardillo’s roster.
“THERE’S A LOT TO learn,” said a smiling Scardillo afterwards, fully expecting her program and players to benefit from this humbling experience.
“Cortland is a great team. It was a fun game and we’ve got so much to learn,” she added. “They’re a great team, and they do a lot of good things both offensively and defensively that we can learn from and improve from.”
Some crisp Cortland passing was a pretty good thing offensively, as 17 of the 22 goals scored came off assists. Senior Erin Kollar and sophomore Taylor Reh had four goals and an assist apiece as the Red Dragons fired off 31 shots. Junior Taylor Harney had a career-high three goals and three assists, team goal-scoring leader Maria Di Fato found the net three times and Marilyn Farrell picked up three assists to go along with a pair of goals.
Laura Edward and Natalie Melaniff also joined in the scoring parade for the Red Dragons. And think what further damage Cortland could have done if Castleton State had not won 20 draws, if freshman goalie Kelsey McDonald had not made a couple of stellar stops in the crease.
“I was very pleased with the play off our bench,” added Coach Taylor. “I thought our bench came in and took care of the game just fine, and our back-up goalie came in and made some saves, too, which was nice to see.”
That back-up goalie, sophomore Courtney Morgan, had a couple of one-on-one stuffs among her four saves in the second half.
The good thing defensively was causing 28 Castleton State turnovers, though some of those were simple Spartan miscues. Sophomore defender Jessica Lavelle led the way for the aggressive Red Dragons, who were whistled for 38 fouls on the day.
“Jess Lavelle is a tiger, no doubt about it. She just flies around the field creating chaos and causing turnovers. It’s a good chaos,” noted Coach Taylor. “There are very few defenders who can play one-on-one defense almost all the way to the restraining line, and she does. She dares people to try to get by them, and it’s very exciting to watch.”
THERE WOULD NOT be a lot of scoring opportunities for the Spartans. Leading scorer Amanda Flodstrom was especially held in check, the sophomore kept off the scoreboard until connecting on a free position chance for her 50th goal of the season with 5:25 left to play.
Things will be tougher this weekend, starting by going up against a Mary Washington team that defeated Washington & Lee 18-6 in the first round yesterday. And the Red Dragons are familiar with The College of New Jersey, Cortland winning an earlier match-up by a narrow 9-8 margin at the Stadium Complex back on March 17.
“Everyone’s talking about going to the Final Four. As long as we play our game we can go as far as we’re willing to push ourselves,” said Abbott. “Having that experience last year will set us up for our success this year.”
And being home will certainly help, even with college graduation being held on campus this weekend.
“We feel very, very privileged to be at home hosting the regionals. We’ve certainly given ourselves the best chance to have a good weekend,” said Coach Taylor. “And we are really appreciative to the college because they have a graduation and they’re working around graduation to give us this opportunity. I know the girls know it’s a really great opportunity for them.”

 

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