May 11, 2009
Cortland knack for hanging on
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Red Dragons’ Chris DeLuca (31) pushes Springfield’s John Ferrell (29) off the ball in the second quarter of Saturday’s NCAA tournament game. DeLuca’s Red Dragons won, 15-12.
For the second consecutive weekend, SUNY Cortland men had to endure some fourth quarter anxiety before they could continue on with this successful lacrosse season.
This time around the Red Dragons nearly squandered a seven-goal halftime advantage before finally putting away pesky Springfield College 15-12 in Saturday afternoon’s NCAA Division III second round test at the breezy Stadium Complex.
The previous weekend in the SUNY Athletic Conference playoff title game, top-seeded host Geneseo scored four late goals before the Red Dragons hung on for a 14-13 victory to earn an automatic berth into this Division III tournament — where Cortland has reached the finals the past three seasons.
“It’s just lacrosse... a game of runs,” said senior midfielder and team captain Joey Morgan of the late pressure applied by the visitors from Massachusetts. The Pilgrim League champions scored four unanswered goals in the fourth quarter and pulled to within 14-12 when Kyle Gable scored for the fifth time in the game, that man-up goal arriving with just 30 seconds left.
Moments later, however, senior midfielder Tom Burke was firing a shot into an empty Springfield net and Cortland was headed to the quarterfinals to host Western New England Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. back at the Stadium Complex.
Cortland and Western New England met to open the season on Feb. 28 on Long Island, the Red Dragons a 15-7 winner on that occasion.
“Our decision-making at the end of the game is suspect,” was the main worry of Coach Steve Beville after his Red Dragons beat Springfield, improving to 16-2 with their ninth consecutive victory.
And though admitting some of that poor decision-making is a reflection of his team’s overall youth, he added: “But at this point of the season the mistakes we are making are inexcusable. I never thought we were going to lose, but you would like to use these games to help you prepare for when the games are much tighter.”
The Red Dragons could survive this late surge by Springfield (12-7) because of a bunch of things they did right, as reflected by a 49-30 shot edge, by winning the ground ball battle 48-28 and by thwarting 10 clearing attempts by the Pride.
THOUGH SENIOR Springfield goalie Tom Albano was a tough nut to crack with 22 saves, the Cortland attack was still productive. Freshman Mike Tota finished with four goals including a couple of man-up tallies, sophomore Jay DiStefano added two goals and three assists, junior Brian Krol two goals and freshman Greg Wright a couple of assists.
“I think we all offer something different and at this point (of the season) we’re definitely meshing,” said DiStefano of the brand new Red Dragon attack from a year ago. “It took a while, but finally we’re really cooking.”
Morgan added three goals and an assist from the midfield, where sophomore Chris DeLuca had a big day in leading the Red Dragons faceoff superiority that led to closing out the first half with five unanswered goals for a 12-5 lead. DeLuca added a goal and an assist, while fellow middie Brandon Misiaszek opened the scoring 58 seconds into the game.
“DeLuca was a big difference today, as he has been all year,” said Coach Beveille, Cortland winning 20-of-29 faceoffs. “When you have a good faceoff man it helps you go on those runs and prevents the other team from going on those runs, because he’s so consistent.”
Cortland senior goalie Matt Hipenbecker came up big on several occasions, a couple of saves on breakaways among his eight stops. And senior defenseman Luke Lemon did his best to frustrate top Springfield scorer Jake Beebe, who did finish with two goals and three assists.
Beebe had set an NCAA point record with seven goals and five assists in the Pride’s 21-4 first round romp over Mount Ida prior to facing Cortland in the second round for the second consecutive year, losing 12-9 to the Red Dragons a year ago.
Cortland never trailed in this rematch, taking a 4-1 lead when Tota and Krol struck within a 30-second span and closing the opening quarter with a 5-2 advantage when Morgan cranked home a shot with two ticks left on the clock.
The hosts seemed to have an answer every time Springfield looked dangerous in that opening half.
WHEN SPRINGFIELD was within 4-2 when Gable scored what appeared to be a momentum changing short-handed goal with 4:32 left in the first quarter, the Pride wasted three consecutive chances to get even closer. One possession was spoiled by a turnover, a bad pass ruined a 2-on-1 fast break and Hipenbecker snuffed Beebe 1-on-1 after he broke free following a Red Dragon turnover at midfield.
In the second quarter after Springfield pulled with 6-4 on a Beebe goal, DiStefano halted that momentum by scoring 16 seconds later off a rebound. And when Joe Macchi got the Pride within 7-5, a quick pass by DeLuca led to a quicker shot by Morgan that beat Albano a mere 37 seconds later.
With DeLuca dominating faceoffs, Cortland then took control to close out that second period. Morgan scored at 3:32 on a transition chance started when defensive work of Eric Parah forced a Springfield turnover near the Cortland crease, DeLuca connected at 1:39 on a low shot after a nice cross-crease pass by Wright, DeLuca won the ensuing faceoff and Burke bounced in a shot 10 seconds later and Tota scored at 0:13 from point blank range after receiving a pass a twisting Morgan delivered while in mid-air.
That stretch of success is what did in the Pride, who out-scored Cortland 7-3 after intermission.
“We played, especially in the first half, way too much defense and their faceoff guy had something to do with that,” said Springfield coach Keith Bugbee, adding he knew his team would have trouble containing DeLuca. “They move the ball so well it’s tough to play defense, chasing them all over the field because they move the ball so well.”
“We watched a lot of film on them and we knew they were going to be pressing us and we had to take advantage of that,” said Morgan of the 12-goal first half enjoyed by the Red Dragons.
Now comes the next step towards the quest of playing for a national title come Memorial Day Weekend in Foxborough, Mass.
“Once you get a taste of it, you want to go back,” said Morgan, who has ended every season in the title game and was a freshman on the 2006 national championship squad. “We’re starting to catch fire, and you want to be rolling heading into the playoffs.”
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