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May 17, 2010

 

Dragons take control

Begin title defense pulling away for 18-6 win over Keene State

LacrosseBob Ellis/staff photographer
Greg Wright (14) and Mike Tota (23) congratulate each other on Tota’s goal off Wright’s assist against Keene State Saturday in the NCAA Division III second round. Cortland rolled at home, 18-6.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

Keene State had to try something different.
Even though the Owls arrived from New Hampshire winners of 10 consecutive contests in high-scoring fashion, realist and head coach Mark Theriault knew going up against defending national champion SUNY Cortland in the second round of the NCAA Division III men’s lacrosse tournament was going to be a monumental task for his youthful squad.
“We knew we weren’t going to play straight up and see how we’d do, because that wouldn’t work for us,” admitted Theriault.
So Keene State tried to control the pace of the game against the third-ranked Division III team in the country, and that simple strategy worked for a little while Saturday afternoon at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex. In the end, however, the Red Dragons were simply too much for the Little East Conference champions to handle.
Cortland turned a 2-2 first quarter standoff into a resounding 18-6 victory, scoring a dozen unanswered goals along the way. That scoring stretch was highlighted by a four-goal eruption over the final two minutes of the opening half.
“They stayed in there in the first quarter with the invert stall and kept us from getting shots off, so give them credit for hanging in there,” said head coach Steve Beville after his Red Dragons improved to 16-2 with their 15th consecutive victory.
Cortland ended up firing off 46 shots and getting two-goal games from seven different players. Attackmen Mike Tota, Greg Wright, Brian Krol and Jay DiStefano joined in with midfielders Chris DeLuca, Pat Hayes and Eric Richards with a couple of tallies apiece.
“It’s been like that all year,“ said senior Krol of the balanced scoring act by the Red Dragons as Neal Hopps, Tom Burke, Zack Mulvaney and long-stick midfielder Sean Davern were also among the goal-scorers.
“They had a guy (Griffin Meehan) who had a 100 points, but we don‘t have anybody who‘s our main go-to guy,” added Krol. “They shut me down, we go to DeLuca or Miz (midfielder Brandon Misiaszek). They shut down DeLuca and we go to Miz or Tota or Jay. Everyone can put the ball in the net for us.”
Now the Red Dragons will be quarterfinal round hosts on Wednesday against a familiar foe, taking on an RIT squad coached by former Homer Central and Nazareth College goalie Jake Coon. RIT took Cortland into overtime earlier this season in Rochester, the Red Dragons pulling out a 12-11 victory on that occasion.
RIT (14-5) advanced with an 11-8 first round win over host Connecticut College on Saturday.
KEENE STATE (13-6) held an early 2-1 lead when Meehan and Matt Schairer scored consecutively, sophomore Schairer‘s man-up goal — the first of his three tallies — with 2:31 left in the first quarter giving the visitors their lone lead.
Even though Cortland senior midfielder Tom Burke spun away from a couple of defenders to tie things up at 2-2 in the final minute of the first quarter, even though Krol rifled in a man-up goal before Richards struck to build a 4-2 lead early in the second stanza, the Owls were still feeling pretty good about themselves in a physical affair.
“First playoff game. There’s a little intensity in the air and I think it’s natural for the guys to get a little overexcited,” said Cortland’s Beville. “We just kept preaching to keep shooting. We told the boys, listen, everything is working so just keep shooting and eventually they’re going to fall.”
Beville was right.
“We had a couple of penalties where we got a little upset,” said Krol. “We just had to keep our heads and know that we’ve got to play our game and not like them. We have to do what we do best.”
Moments after Krol was decked on the doorstep of the crease on a fast break scoring chance created by Burke, DiStefano scored off a Tota assist with 1:41 left before halftime. Hayes struck 19 seconds later and drew an unnecessary roughness penalty, which was converted into a Krol extra-man goal with 1:06 on the clock.
When DiStefano blazed in his second goal with six ticks left, Cortland had an 8-2 halftime lead and this game was pretty much over.
“We were trying to kill the clock and keep it a close game and I think we did that in the first quarter,” said Keene State’s Theriault. “We gave up some transition goals and had some penalties, and that’s what really got the ball rolling.”
Keene State took another penalty on a faceoff won by DeLuca just before halftime, Tota flicked in a goal in front off a Wright pass in the opening seconds of the third quarter and the Red Dragons kept on going. The lead was 13-2 before Taylor Jette ended an Owls’ scoreless stretch of 27 minutes.
THERE WERE SOME stellar goals among the 10 second half Red Dragon connections — the best of the bunch featuring defensive midfielder Eric Parah pirouetting away from three defenders on a clear, racing in on goal and provided the perfect pass for Wright to convert into the 12th Cortland goal. There was also the Tota midfield theft that led to his breakaway goal on helpless Owls goalie Jason Lesser — a freshman from Brewster and one of two New York State players on the visitor’s roster.
“Once we starting getting goals in the rest just keeps rolling and we keep going,” said Krol, as Cortland will now keep going into the post-season.
Meanwhile, Keene State hopes this experience pays off down the road, this just the third NCAA appearance in school history.
“I think we’re a good team. I don’t think we’re a great team. We’re trying to emulate the things they’re doing here. It’s a progression, taking it one game at a time,” said Theriault, who is a part-time employee at the school.
“We knew when we came here it was a different ball game. Yet at same time, I love the fact we were playing Cortland instead of a Connecticut College or someone in New England we see all the time,” he added. “This is part of the experience. Just one team is going to win the national championship, and I’d rather have the experience, the big bus, the hotel, the stadium. This is great for the kids and I’m thrilled to death they get to do something like this.”