Red Dragons handle old nemesis
SUNY Cortland senior midfielder Mike Abbott knew how much this meant to his classmates.
So after finishing off the Red Dragons’ 12-8 lacrosse victory over Middlebury College in Wednesday afternoon’s NCAA Division III quarterfinal round tournament game by scoring into an empty net in the final minute of play, he could revel in their joy.
“I wasn’t here, but I heard the stories,” said the bearded one out of Nottingham High School in Syracuse, who spent two years at Virginia before becoming a Red Dragon stalwart for the past two seasons.
He was referring to the tales of 2003, when Middlebury pulled off a double overtime victory on this same SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex field to keep the Red Dragons from going to the NCAA title game. The Red Dragons who were freshmen at the time remember that frustration all too well.
“You should have seen the seniors in the locker room before the game,” said Abbott. “They were grinning ear-to-ear. They couldn’t wait to get out there.”
It certainly showed.
With senior attackman Kyle Lambert scoring four goals and picking up a pair of assists, with Abbott making his own three-goal contribution, with a ball-hawking defense led by seniors Dan Schmitt and Casey Dougherty coming up big, Cortland dominated. The Red Dragons led 7-1 in the opening half, took a 10-2 advantage into the fourth quarter before holding off the visiting Panthers.
Middlebury did keep things interesting with a six-goal fourth quarter outburst, three of those coming from sophomore attackman Jim Cabrera. But no one expected the visitors from Vermont to go away with a fight, especially considering Coach Erin Quinn was leaving his post after 15 seasons and 202 wins to become the school’s athletic director.
“That’s Middlebury out there. They’ve got one of the best programs in Division III,” noted goalie Ben Gaebel, another senior who contributed a dozen saves, of the visitors’ late surge.
After falling well behind by giving up five unanswered Red Dragon goals in the second quarter, after being blanked in the third stanza, the closest Middlebury would get would be 11-8 with 1:42 left to play when Travis Meyer scored from close range.
The Red Dragons gobbled up the ensuing faceoff taken by Josh Cittadino and chewed up precious clock time until Abbott scored with 30 seconds left. That shot was fired after Middlebury goalie Alex Palmisano vacated the crease trying to force a turnover.
NOW CORTLAND HEADS into the NCAA semifinals, to host Wesleyan University from Connecticut on Sunday. Starting time between the two teams with matching 16-3 records has yet to be determined.
Wesleyan was a 16-10 winner at Geneseo in semifinal play yesterday, spoiling the chance for the Red Dragons to get a rubber-game with their SUNY Athletic Conference rival.
The Red Dragons may head into that semifinal — where the winner advances to the 2:30 p.m. title game being played at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on May 28 — with dangerous senior Matt O’Connell at less than full strength.
O’Connell, the SUNYAC Player of the Year who had two assists against a Middlebury defense intent on doubling the midfielder from West Genesee at every opportunity, was injured in the opening moments of the second half. He was bracing himself against the sideline when he as hit in the back, drawing a pushing penalty.
“I’m playing,” insisted O’Connell, who has 31 goals and 30 assists for the season. He will have an MRI to determine what damage has been done.
Both of his assists, along with three goals and two assists by Lambert, came when Cortland was building an early 7-1 lead by taking advantage of Middlebury defensive aggressiveness.
“They were quick to slide and we were quick moving the ball,” was the accurate picture painted by O’Connell as to how Cortland picked apart the Panthers.
Sophomore midfielder Adam Hyde also connected twice during that early getaway, which started with an extra-man goal scored by Ryan Heath and ended with Abbott moving to his left to rifle a shot home with 3:36 left before halftime.
MIDDLEBURY DID get a transition goal with 1:42 left before halftime, defenseman Gabe Wood racing downfield to set up attackman Henry Sheehan.
But the third period was all Cortland, with Lambert, Tim Castoro and Abbott all scoring to build an eight-goal cushion. To go among with that offensive surge, some solid defensive work from short-stick defensive midfielders Greg Steward and Keith Green helped create that big lead.
Since losing out on a regular season SUNYAC title with a home field loss to Geneseo, the Red Dragons have been rising to the occasion — including a win at Geneseo in the conference playoff title game that secured this spot in the NCAA tournament.
“This is the time of year you want to have everyone on the same page, everyone playing well together,” said Lambert, who is now the team scoring leader with 42 goals and 20 assists.
“I think this team plays better with stakes like this,” said first year head coach Richie Barnes.
And the stakes for the Red Dragons don’t get much higher than an NCAA semifinal game, Cortland looking to get to the finals for the first time since 1981. Cortland has been ousted in the quarterfinal round the past two seasons, both times with losses to Nazareth.
Wesleyan 16, Geneseo 10: The Wesleyan Cardinals (16-3) scored 13 times in the second half to end the season for Geneseo(13-3).
Glen Adams scored a game-high six goals for Wesleyan, which had won a second round game at RIT 11-8. Adams would get three goals in the final six minutes and junior goalie Charlie Congleton made 10 of his 17 saves in the final period to seal the win for Wesleyan.
Senior Jack Ryerson led Geneseo with four goals and one assist, Ryerson’s 113 career goals second best in school history. Sophomore and Homer Central graduate Tim McDermott won 20-of-30 attempts and scooped nine groundballs to aid in Geneseo’s possession.
— Defending champion Salisbury (19-0) beat Washington College in a semifinal showdown of Maryland schools 8-4 to advance into the semifinals. Roanoke (15-2) was a 13-12 winner at Gettysburg, and will travel to Salisbury Sunday.
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Topping Trojans keep CHS in 1st
The Cortland High girls’ lacrosse team came into Wednesday’s game at archrival Homer Central atop the OHSL Freedom Division standings with one league loss in seven games this spring.
That loss came at the hands of the Trojans, 10-9, last month, and it almost happened again.
As it turned out, that 10-9 score was also important to the final outcome this time around, because when Molly SanJule scored her fourth goal of the game with 6:56 left, off an assist by Janelle Stegeland, it gave the Purple Tigers what proved to be the winning goal in a 12-9 victory at Homer’s Butts Field.
It was the eighth straight loss for Homer, all since the win in Cortland, and dropped the gritty Trojans to 1-7-1 in league play and 4-10-1 overall.
The win enabled Cortland to clinch at least a tie for first place in the league, as second-place Jamesville-DeWitt fell to 6-3 in the division in a 9-8 loss to Fulton. The Red Raiders and East Syracuse-Minoa are tied for third at 5-3.
The turning point came after Homer scored with 10:20 left in the game to forge the third tie of the second half, after the teams were deadlocked at 7-7 and 8-8. Cortland coach Kim Pace called a timeout, and from that point on her squad scored the game’s final three goals — two by SanJule and one by Stegeland.
“After the timeout the girls started to pass the ball more,” said Pace, whose team is now 10-4 overall and has won six straight. “We talked about what we had to do to win, and they took it to the next level.”
With Cortland maintaining possession of the ball, Stegeland was able to find SanJule alone in front for the decisive goal.
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Cortland reqarded in victory
AUBURN — For this successful late-night baseball showing, SUNY Cortland received a nice prize at the NCAA New York State Division III Regional at Falcon Park.
The top-seeded Red Dragons will get today off.
Senior Jimmy Dougher pitched a seven-hit complete-game shutout to lead the Cortland to a 9-0 victory over the fourth-seeded Eastern Connecticut Warriors on Wednesday evening. That was the last of four games played at Falcon Park to get this double elimination regional started, with rain delays forcing Coach Joe Brown’s squad to play well into the nighttime.
Will Groff homered to break a scoreless tie in the third inning, the leadoff hitter going 3-for-5 on the day.
Dan Maycock slugged a two-run homer during a decisive four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning, while third baseman Ricky Piovesan finished 3-for-4.
The Red Dragons (38-7) will be idle until Friday at noon, awaiting the winner of Thursday’s Ithaca vs. Rensselaer game.
Dougher, a 6-foot-7 right-hander from Liverpool, did not walk a batter. He improved to 9-0 this spring and 16-2 in his career, and allowed just one Eastern Connecticut State player past second base.
That lone scare to this shutout came in the sixth inning with Cortland protecting a 1-0 lead.
Eastern Connecticut second baseman Marc Garofalo doubled to open the sixth, one of his three hits off Dougher. But he was thrown out at third by shortstop Mike Rosenberry trying to advance on a Shawn Gilblair grounder.
Gilblair would reach third base with two outs when Randy Re hit a high infield pop-up. There was some miscommunication in the Cortland infield before catcher Shawn Ensel saved the day with a diving catch near the pitcher’s mound to end the inning and preserve the shutout.
The Red Dragons broke the game open by scoring eight times in their final three at-bats off five Warrior pitchers.
Junior left fielder Maycock hit a two-run home run to spark a four-run seventh and added an RBI in the eighth. Groff added a triple and a single and scored twice in the late getaway.
Cortland had 16 hits for the game, with designated hitter Zach Tacelli, Rosenberry and Ensel with two apiece.
Cortland improves to 12-0 in NCAA playoff games at Auburn’s Falcon Park. The Red Dragons won regional titles there in 2000, 2001 and 2005.
After last year’s victory, Cortland went on to finish second at the NCAA Division III World Series.
In other opening day results, Eastern Connecticut State got things started with a 4-3 win over St. Lawrence. Ithaca trimmed Endicott 7-3 and Rensselaer defeated Centenary 14-2.
Four games are on tap for today at Falcon Park, with Cortland scheduled to play the first of three games Friday. The championship round starts at noon Saturday, with a second game to be played at 4 p.m. if needed.