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May 18, 2009

 

Late surge sends Dragons to finals

It’s back to Foxboro after beating Middlebury 16-8

Dragons

Rich Barnes/contributing photographer
SUNY Cortland senior midfielder Joey Morgan cranks a shot against Middlebury’s Henry Clark during Sunday’s semifinal game. Morgan had three goals in Cortland’s 16-8 victory.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

Once again in this stirring post-season run, SUNY Cortland continued the frustrating habit of frittering away leads in the second half.
But maybe that is why the Red Dragons did not panic when a five-goal advantage was on the verge of vanishing against vengeful Middlebury College in this NCAA Division III lacrosse semifinal showdown played on a cool and breezy Sunday afternoon at the Stadium Complex.
Having already survived similar calamity in their last three outings, these Red Dragons were certainly accustomed to facing a little second half drama. And this time around Coach Steve Beville’s squad responded by turning looming disaster into a rousing 16-8 victory over a bunch of dangerous Panthers from Vermont.
After a 7-2 lead late in the second quarter turned into a 7-6 third quarter predicament, nine of the next 10 goals in this contest were scored by the Red Dragons. And that timely surge continues a much more pleasant lacrosse habit — Cortland reaching the Division III title game for a fourth consecutive season.
Behind a balanced scoring attack that featured three-goal outings from senior midfielder Joey Morgan and attackmen Brian Krol and Mike Tota, with the defense at its tenacious best while holding dangerous Middlebury midfielder Mike Stone to a single tally, and with steady senior goalie Matt Hipenbecker making eight saves before exiting to a rousing ovation with 7:32 left to play, the Red Dragons got the job done.
So after capturing an 11th consecutive victory, Cortland (18-2) will now face Gettysburg (16-3) for the national title this coming Sunday. Game time is at noon at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
Middlebury’s season concludes at 15-3.
“We knew they were a very good team and we knew they were going to make a run,” said sophomore midfielder Chris DeLuca, who contributed two goals and two assists to the Cortland cause. “But we knew we had to make a run of our own. Our defense played great and that’s just what we did.”
Middlebury scoring leader Stone scored his lone goal 20 seconds before halftime to provide the Panthers a shot of adrenaline to carry into halftime trailing just 7-3. And when midfielder Skyler Hopkins scored twice to open the second half, followed by attackman Matt Ferrer converting one of four Paul Smith assists into a goal despite taking a big hit in front, Middlebury was within 7-6 with 8:49 left in the third period.
Cortland compounded the trouble by taking a penalty moments later, giving Middlebury a man-up chance to pull even while looking to avenge an overtime loss to Cortland in the quarterfinals a year ago on this same field.
“I WAS THINKING about calling a timeout, but I know we have a great faceoff man (in DeLuca) and we could go on a run of our own, and we did,” said Cortland coach Steve Beville of the trouble Cortland conquered in the third period. “I thought that was the difference. We reeled off three in a row and that was the deal, it was all over.”
Moments after killing off the penalty, with sophomore defender Justin Schneidman gobbling up a crucial ground ball to trigger a successful clear, Cortland cashed in with the game’s biggest goal. Defensive midfielder Eric Parah spun away from a defender and fed freshman Tota for that momentum-changing tally with 6:10 left in the third quarter. Krol followed with a low zinger that found net at 4:26, Tota struck again on a bounce shot from a tough angle at 3:09 after midfielder Brandon Misiaszek drew the defense attacking the crease and Cortland had survived the scare.
Middlebury got one goal back in the final minute of the stanza, but veteran Morgan rifled in shot into the upper corner of the net with just two ticks left on the third quarter clock for a goal that really deflated the Panthers. The onslaught continued into the fourth quarter when Morgan, Misiaszek and Krol all connected over the opening five minutes.
When freshman attackman Mike Wright was on the tail end of some brilliant Red Dragon passing for an extra-man goal (attackman Jay DiStefano the unselfish assistman) and fellow frosh Zach Mulvaney fired in a shot from the top, Cortland was in 16-7 control with 7:41 left to play thanks to six unanswered goals when they were needed the most.
“It’s important not to led the goalie get hot. If you let him make a couple of saves then his confidence grows and it gets harder to score. We’ve done that in the past against other goalies,” said junior attackman Krol, who also had an assist to go along with his hat trick. “But we came out and put some goals by him and that took some of the wind out of their sails. We wanted to get them thinking that, hey, Cortland’s here.”
Middlebury goalie Pete Britt finished with 10 saves. Hopkins collected a team-high three goals, though he was kept in check once Cortland turned senior defensman Luke Lemon loose on Panthers midfielder.
HOLDING DOWN 56-goal scorer Stone was more vital to Cortland success, senior long-stick midfielder Cody Hoyt spending most of the time covering the Middlebury senior along with freshman long-stick middie Jack Kennedy.
“He’s probably going to be the Player of the Year in Division III and our defense did a good job of shutting him down,” said Beville of the work done against Stone.
“He’s a great player, can go left and can go right. I tried to deny him some, but mostly I tried to play good, straight-up defense. We just wanted to stay with him and play our game,” said senior Hoyt, who also came up with a nifty fast break assist on Krol’s fourth quarter goal after forcing a turnover and racing the length of the field before delivering a perfect pass.
This was only the second time all season Middlebury has not scored in double figures in a game, midfielders Parah and senior Tom Burke also part of a solid defensive effort.
At the other end of the field, Cortland fired off 50 shots and never trailed after goals by midfielders Misiaszek and DeLuca opened the scoring.
“We were a little more intense than they were,” felt DeLuca. “We came out ready to play. We prepared well, our coaches prepared us well, and we know when we get off to a good start like that it puts us in position to win the game.”
Four unanswered goals by DeLuca, Tota, Morgan and DiStefano turned a 3-2 first quarter lead into a 7-2 second quarter advantage. Though that lead didn’t last, Cortland responded to win going away and set up a rematch with Gettysburg — a team the Red Dragons defeated in early March on Long Island 14-8.
“I’m not concerned about previous games. Gettysburg’s a different team and so are we,” said Coach Beville. “I’m just happy to get the chance to butt heads with them again.”
And it will be a new face in the finals for Cortland, the Red Dragons upsetting Salisbury in overtime in the 2006 title game before losing to the perennial national power the past two seasons in the finals — including a 19-13 loss last year in Foxboro.
Salisbury was knocked off in the quarterfinals by Stevenson this season, No. 1 nationally-ranked Stevenson losing 12-7 in Saturday’s semifinal clash with Gettysburg.

Cortland 16, Middlebury 8
———
By periods:
Middlebury College 2 1 4 1 — 8
SUNY Cortland 5 2 4 5 — 16
Goals-Assists: Middlebury- Skyler Hopkins 3-0, Matt Ferrer 2-0, Tom Petty 2-0, Mike Stone 1-0, Pete Smith 0-4, David Hild 0-1. Cortland- Brian Krol 3-1, Joey Morgan 3-0, Mike Tota 3-0, Chris DeLuca 2-2, Brandon Misiaszek 2-1, Jay DiStefano 1-2, Zack Mulvaney 1-0, Greg Wright 1-0, Cody Hoyt 0-1, Eric Parah 0-1
Shots: Cortland 50, Middlebury 30
Ground Balls: Cortland 42, Middlebury 34
Clears: Cortland 18-of-21, Middlebury 14-of-20
Faceoffs: Cortland 14, Middlebury 14
Penalties: Middlebury 5-for-4:00, Cortland 3-for-2:00
Extra-Man: Cortland 2-for-5, Middlebury 0-for-3
Saves: Pete Britt (M) 10, Matt Hipenbecker (C) 8, Mike Robinson (C) 1