May 16, 2011
Dragons off to Final Four
Cortland rolls past Colby 15-4 in regional title game
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Lindsay Abbott (left) and Maria Di Fato celebrate after Sunday’s NCAA playoff win over Colby that sent the Dragons to the Division III Final Four.
The grin on Melissa Kane’s face practically glowed on this dreary, rain-soaked Sunday afternoon at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
The elated senior defender and her SUNY Cortland lacrosse teammates were headed for some NCAA Division III Final Four fun, having just disposed of Colby College in rather convincing fashion in this regional title game.
While capturing an 18th consecutive victory, the Red Dragons never trailed in a 15-4 romp that has this surging squad just two wins away from a national title. That’s a pretty special occasion for someone like Kane, who called herself the team’s “Mama Bear” for being one of just two seniors on Coach Kathy Taylor’s roster.
“It means everything. I’m so happy I can’t even put it into words,“ said Kane, the team captain out of Cicero-North Syracuse whose defense held the Mules from Maine to a lone first half goal despite being tested with 10 shots. Cortland was in 8-1 control when halftime arrived.
“It’s like we’ve worked so hard for it and it’s finally here, and I’m just trying to take it all in. I’m so happy. I’m grinning,” Kane added.
Cortland had plenty to smile about as sophomore Maria Di Fato scored four goals, diminutive 5-foot sophomore goalie Ally Levy came up very big and record-setting junior midfielder Lindsay Abbott collected three goals to go along with four assists. They led the way for this rather youthful squad that has grown up in a hurry while winning a school record 21 of their 22 contests this spring.
“I knew that having the heart and desire we have was going to put us in the Final Four, and it has,” said Abbott, who is now the single-season and career scoring leader after two Cortland tournament wins over the weekend.
So now it’s on to Garden City on Long Island, as Adelphi University plays host to the Final Four on Saturday and Sunday. Cortland will face Gettysburg at 8 p.m. on Saturday, with Bowdoin and The College of New Jersey 5 p.m. semifinal combatants looking to advance into Sunday’s 3 p.m. title game.
These Red Dragons will be hard to handle, as Colby (15-5) discovered while trying to ride the momentum of a remarkable come-from-behind 6-5 victory over Hamilton College the previous day. Or as goalie Levy predicted following her nine-save performance: “We’re going to win it all.”
AS THE AMAZING Abbott explained it, on the previous afternoon the Red Dragons had been intent spectators rooting for Colby to upset Hamilton College in the regional semifinals. Having already advanced into the NCAA Division regional finals with a 13-7 win over Tufts, the Red Dragons were hoping to have the chance to face the team that had knocked them out of last year’s post-season playoffs.
In the second round on the NCAA tournament a year ago, Colby nipped the Red Dragons 10-9 — a loss that drew some discussion among Cortland players.
“We did a little bit,” said Kane of any revenge talk with her teammates. “We’ve got a lot of freshmen, so a lot of them weren’t here. For those of us who were there last year, it was just a little something that was needed.”
From the very first goal two minutes into the game, when Abbott prevented a turnover with a remarkable save at the end line behind the Colby goal and then set up freshman Ashley Cook in front, Cortland was in control.
Not that Colby did not have chances. The Mules had plenty of those in the first half, only to be turned back by Levy or denied by the Red Dragons’ defense.
“It just felt right today,” said Levy after her steady showing kept Colby from gaining any momentum. “I knew before the game that this was ours and we were going (to the Final Four). Colby definitely attacked the goal and showed they were going to stick around, but we just played well and it was ours.”
Only Colby senior Anne Geraghty was able to slip a first half shot past Levy, weaving through traffic to get to the front of the net. That got the Mules within 3-1 before Cortland scored the next seven goals to pull away for keeps.
“We’re youthful on attack and they created a lot of opportunities and tried, but Cortland’s defense stepped up and forced us to take shots a lot quicker than we wanted to. We’re not used to that,” admitted Colby coach Karen MacCrate Henning.
“OUR DEFENSE WAS put to the test and they withstood the test,” said Coach Taylor of those crucial opening moments when Cortland was tested. “Ally Levy had a great game in the cage and our defense, led by seniors Antonio Cianfrocco and Melissa Kane, really answered the bell.”
So did he potent Cortland attack. Freshman Mary Hartzheim had three second half goals, classmate Alexis Edgeberg scored twice in the first half including a fantastic flick in front off an Abbott feed and Erin Kollar picked up late goal for these deep Red Dragons.
Two second half Colby goals by senior Katie Broidy and another by impressive freshman Lindsey McKenna could not match Cortland’s firepower.
“They’re a great team. I can’t take anything away from them, and they played their hearts out for 60 minutes,” said Abbott of the Colby squad. “Ally just came up huge and our defense, they were just ready for them.”
So now it’s off to the Final Four, with high expectations.
“We have a lot of good players. We’ve got a lot of talented freshmen who came in, and we still have a lot of talent from the last couple of years,” said Kane of the Red Dragons. “We have a lot of speed, we really do, and our transition game is great. We’ve got two good goalies, and just a lot of hard work. Everyone’s in it together and wants the same thing, it’s great.“
Coach Taylor agrees.
“Right now, our team is playing with a lot of confidence,” she said. “We had a lot of people on the field today and everyone was working just as hard as the person who came off.”
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