May 26, 2009
Dragons champs once again
Overcome early deficit to beat Gettysburg 9-7
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — You could not help but notice the lone word on the back of the red tee-shirt worn by SUNY Cortland defenseman Luke Lemon upon leaving the Gillette Stadium locker room Sunday afternoon.
That word was simply: dominate.
Dominate is just what the senior captain and his Red Dragon teammates did in the midst of the NCAA Division III championship game earlier in the day, turning an early two-goal deficit into a rousing 9-7 victory over Gettysburg College before a throng of 24,072 fans.
With junior midfielder Brandon Misiaszek erupting for a career high five-goals to earn the game’s MVP honor, with the Lemon-led defense holding the Bullets scoreless over a decisive 38-minute stretch of time and with senior goalie Matt Hipenbecker coming up with some inspirational stuff between the pipes, Cortland is once again a national champion.
This senior class of eight started their careers being part of a Red Dragon championship team that upset Salisbury in overtime back in 2006. After Cortland lost to Salisbury in the last two tournament title games, the Red Dragons are back on top of the Division III lacrosse world after capping a 19-2 season with a 12th consecutive victory.
“This is the greatest feeling anyone can have at any level of lacrosse, having your seniors go out as winners,” said midfielder Joey Morgan, the upperclassman contributing a goal and an assist while going up against Gettysburg long-stick midfielder Tommy Kehoe in a duel of first team All-Americans.
Down 4-2 after the opening period, Cortland scored seven unanswered goals over the second and third quarters. That outburst provided a five-goal lead to protect over the final 15 minutes. Misiaszek had four of those seven tallies, capped by a shot with just 1.6 seconds left in the third stanza that put Cortland in 9-4 control.
Over that 30-minute stretch of excellence, the Red Dragons had a 23-5 shot advantage, won 6-of-9 faceoffs with sophomore Chris DeLuca doing brunt of that work and took advantage of nine Gettysburg turnovers to dominate (there’s that word again) time of possession.
It was a bad case of deja-vu for the Bullets from Pennsylvania, making their first title game appearance since 2002 and seeking their first-ever national crown. In a regular season 14-8 loss to Cortland at a neutral site on Long Island back on March 7, things were tied 5-5 at halftime when the Red Dragons reeled off six straight third period goals to break that game open.
GETTYSBURG (16-4) CAME into this rematch riding a 14-game winning streak, which included avenging earlier losses to both Haverford and No. 1 ranked Stevenson — the latter coming in the NCAA semifinals. And the orange-clad Bullets seemed ready to reverse that earlier Cortland setback, too.
“Uncharacteristic, silly mistakes on defense,” was the problem cited by Cortland head coach Steve Beville for his team’s early troubles.
After Gettysburg’s Josh Reichert from the doorstep of the crease and Cortland’s Misiaszek on a sweep to his right swapped goals over the opening minutes, the Bullets went up 3-1 on back-to-back goals by midfielder Kyle McGrath.
Cortland got one goal right back nine seconds after McGrath’s second tally, some crisp pass-work after a faceoff win leading to a Brian Krol tally off an assist from frosh attackman Mike Tota. But the Gettysburg lead grew to 4-2 when Zach Pucci went back door and coverted a pass from fellow attackman Joel Brody with 3:24 left in the first quarter.
Moments later, Beville used his first time-out.
“Fellows, let’s execute our game plan and get the jitters out,” was the advice Beville remembers offering his troops. After Hipenbecker came up big moments later as the Red Dragons killed off a Gettysburg extra-man scoring chance, the Red Dragons started turning things around.
Hipenbecker felt getting the defense talking and working together made a huge difference. “Communication is what caused our defense to step it up,” he noted.
Switching Lemon to cover more dangerous Gettysburg midfielders instead of sticking with an attackman also helped slow down the Bullets. “It kind of messed them up a little and it helped some, but the biggest difference all game was the play of our goalie. Hippy was a brick wall out there,” said Lemon as Hipenbecker had several point-blank denials among his 10 saves.
Early in the second quarter, Morgan drew in the defense and dished off to wide open Tota to get Cortland within one. With the defense at its disruptive best for the rest of the period, especially spoiling Gettysburg clearing attempts, Misiaszek rolled back off his defender on a move in front and scored with 2:42 left in the half and this game was deadlocked at 4-4.
With Gettysburg more concerned with heralded midfielders Morgan and DeLuca, Misiaszek ended up with a match-up that favored the Red Dragons all day long. Or as Beville noted of the dilemma Cortland middies provide for any opponent: “You have to pick your poison.”
“I was going hard all game,” said New Hartford native Misiaszek, who was seventh among Red Dragon scorers coming into the game with a modest 26 goals and eight assists. “Then they didn’t switch the pole to me and I felt I could take the shorty, and I did.”
THE THIRD QUARTER belonged to the Red Dragons, starting with Misiaszek coming off the sideline after a Cortland clear to score 30 seconds into the period after a huge Lemon hit spoiled a Gettysburg opening possession.
DeLuca fed Misiaszek in front for a 6-4 lead. Red Dragon patience was rewarded as Morgan sneaked behind the defense to turn freshman Mike Wright’s pass into a 7-4 lead while drawing a Gettysburg slashing penalty. DeLuca won the ensuing faceoff and Krol was zinging home a shot from the wing nine seconds later off a Tom Burke assist for an 8-4 advantage.
When Gettysburg finally got an offensive opportunity late in the stanza, Hipenbecker stopped a couple of shots that led to successful Red Dragon clear with a minute to go. Misiaszek then finished off his career day by sneaking a shot inside the near post and past senior goalie Zach Furshman in the final second.
“They respected the ball,” said Gettysburg coach Hank Janczyk of the Red Dragons, bemoaning all the time his Bullets spent on defense. “Sometimes when that happens you get a little itchy. You take a quick shot instead of the good shot.”
All the good shots belong to Misiaszek, who admitted that Coach Beville had been getting on him for “drifting” away from goal too much. “Coach would get on me for not going hard, so I guess I finally listened to him,” the game’s MVP said.
“He felt like it was his time to step up. He took it with flying colors and I couldn’t be happier for him,” said Morgan of his midfield mate.
Gettysburg still made things interesting with fourth period goals by Tom O’Donnell, Pucci and Brody — the first ending that 38-minute offensive drought and the last coming with 26.7 seconds left. And Hipenbecker had to make one last save — his seventh of the fourth quarter — with 10 ticks left before a bunch of anxious Red Dragons could really begin to celebrate.
Soon there were pile-ups all over the Gillette Stadium tuft, with Morgan clutching onto the championship trophy. In a short span, donning championship tee-shirts and hats, the Red Dragons took a victory lap around the premises.
Cortland 9, Gettysburg 7
Gettysburg College 4 0 0 3 — 7
SUNY Cortland 2 2 5 0 — 9
Goals-Assists: Gettysburg- Kyle McGrath 2-0, Zach Pucci 2-0, Joe Brody 1-2, Tom O’Donnell 1-1, Josh Reichert 1-0, Tommy Kehoe 0-1, Danno Lynch 0-1. Cortland- Brandon Misiaszek 5-0, Brian Krol 2-0, Joey Morgan 1-1, Mike Tota 1-1, Tom Burke 0-1, Chris DeLuca 0-1, Greg Wright 0-1
Shots: Cortland 33, Gettysburg 31
Ground Balls: Gettysburg 33, Cortland 32
Clears: Cortland 18-of-21, Gettysburg 18-of-23
Faceoffs Won: Cortland 11, Gettysburg 9
Penalties: Cortland 4-for-2:30, Gettysburg 1-for-1:00
Extra-Man Offense: Gettysburg 0-for-4, Cortland 1-for-1
Saves: Zach Furshman (G) 12, Matt Hipenbecker (C) 10
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