Gritty escape for Purple Tigers

Staff Writer

Taylor Brown used his hockey talent to help propel the Cortland High boys’ lacrosse team to a Section 3 Class B tournament victory Friday afternoon.
The junior midfielder pounced on a loose ball on the ground in front of the East Syracuse-Minoa goal and back-handed it home with 1:19 left in the first overtime period, giving the fourth-seeded Purple Tigers a 10-9 victory.
“There was a loose ball with a lot of people going for it,” said Brown, covered in mud after both the wet game and a celebratory slide with teammates in front of the goal he scored into. “I ran at it, someone from ES-M slipped and I just smashed it in with a backhand shot. I scored 11 goals with 22 assists for the Syracuse Stars (Junior B hockey team) this winter, but this is my biggest goal.”
Brown, who according to coach John Spallone left shortly after the game to take part in a hockey tournament, now has 25goals this lacrosse season to go along with nine assists.
The score ended a game in which the momentum shifted more often that the weather, with torrential rain descending on the field four minutes until halftime, letting up and giving way to intermittent showers in the second half. It was made possibleby a furious CHS rally from a 9-7 deficit with just 1:48 left to play inregulation.
“Talk about a gritty win at this point of the season,” said Spallone, whose team won its ninth straight and improved to 13-6 overall while earning a semifinal berth againsttop-seeded Jamesville-DeWitt in a 7:30 p.m. Tuesday start at Cicero-North Syracuse. “After they went up 9-7 we talked about pushing the ballto extend their defense and going tothe goal like crazy, and the kidsresponded with some nice scoringopportunities.”
A penalty on the Spartans with 1:34 left gave the hosts a man-up advantage that it took them 14 seconds to cash in on, junior attack Jay Hartnett scoring on the rebound of his own shot from the near right side. Junior midfielder Theo Bishop won the ensuing faceoff for the Purple Tigers, and Joel White found Jack Spallone in front for the tying goal with 27 seconds left.
“I saw Joel cut from the (right) side, and the man on me moved,” said Spallone, a sophomore midfielder who now has 26 goals on the season. “I cut past him toward the crease, Joel made a great pass and I put it away. Joel is a good dodger, and when the defenders who are covering us go to help we read off that. It worked out perfectly.”
“I wasn’t scoring much,” said White, who had a goal and three assists. The junior midfielder who leads the Purple Tigers in scoring with 49 goals and 43 assists for 92 points.
“Jack sat back, and I saw an opening in the defense and gave it to him. It was taking a chance, but it was the kind of chance you have to take in a situation like that. He made a great catch and finish,” he added. “We’d lost to ES-M once in overtime this year (7-6 on the road April 12) and we weren’t going to let it happen again. We came out and played hard, and our man-down played great when it counted. That helped a lot.”
The hosts came out strong, Spallone and Brown scoring once each to make it 2-0 Cortland in the first 2:57 of the contest. The Purple Tigers maintained control and went up 4-1 with 5:44 left in the first half on a goal by junior midfielder Dan Leonard after White had answered ES-M’s first tally.
A heavy rain started with around four minutes left until halftime, and behind goals by junior attack Cody Young and sophomore midfielder John Albanese the visitors pulled to within 4-3 at halftime.
“ES-M has a nice group of kids,” Spallone said. “They never gave up, and kept working hard. The heavy rain affected our footing and caused us defensive problems, and we weren’t being patient with the ball offensively and couldn’t utilize their slippage. But we also had a lot of near-misses on shots when we had a chance to take control earlier.”
ES-M sophomore midfielder Matt Cushing tied the score at 4-4 with 6:58 left in the third before Hartnett gave Cortland the lead back 1:24 later on a hard shot from the right side. Cushing tied the game again with 39 seconds left in the stanza, and the Spartans took their first lead as junior attack Adam Vlassis scored one second before the period ended.
Cortland then got consecutive fourth-quarter goals from Brown (from White) and Spallone (from junior midfielder Brian Benford) and led 7-6 with 7:16 left before the visitors scored three in a row, two on man-up situations, to apparently lock things up. Young tied the game at 7-7 with 3:21 left with Cortland down a man, and Albanese converted a pass from junior midfielder Nick Kolod to put the Spartans back up with three minutes later. Cushing made it 9-7 off a feed from Young on a shot from the left side with 1:48 left, setting the stage for the wildfinish.
Each team had a couple of possessions in the extra session, including the man-up opportunity for the visitors, before Brown ended it.   
“Our inability to make the right play with under two minutes to go (in regulation) cost us,” ES-M coach Todd Freeman said quietly, his team’s season having ended with a 9-10 record. “We couldn’t pick up grounders or win face-offs. We never got very polished all year. We won three games in overtime, but it never seemed like we were in control enough.
“We played differently in the fourth quarter than in the third ,” he added, referring to when when the Spartans finished a 5-1 scoring run to take the lead heading into the final regulation stanza. “Give Cortland credit; they’re on an impressive winning streak. Their close defenders are very, very athletic and gave us fits; White and Bishop also had nice games and hurt us, and Zach (Zayac) was good in the goal.”
Bishop was behind Cortland’s 15-4 face-off advantage in the contest, and goalie Zayac also had a big hand in the victory, making 19 saves, including a number of point-blank stops, as ES-M had a 36-27 shot advantage. ES-M goalie Chris Ehde stopped eight shots.
J-D, the OHSL Division B champion and, at 17-1 the fourth-ranked Class B squad in the state, beat the Purple Tigers 13-8 at home in both teams’ season-opener and by 14-6 in Cortland late last month.
“We’re not the team we were the two times we lost to them. We’ve improved markedly,” coach Spallone said. “They’ve allowed 59 goals all season, so we have almost 25 percent of those.”
“We’re going to be real fired up, probably even more than before the Homer games,” Jack Spallone said. “We want to get back at J-D.”
“We know we have to play a lot better against J-D. This game was a good eye-opener,” White said. “I think some guys were looking ahead to J-D a little too much today. It’s to our advantage that we know how good they are and that we have to play our best game. They’ve beaten us twice, so hopefully they’ll look by us a little.”
“This is going to bring the team together,” Brown said. “With a lot on the line, we got a big win. We have to step it up against J-D. During the season we were able to stay with them in the first half of both games, and we have to continue and extend that.” 


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Cortland girls pass opening test

The Cortland High girls’ lacrosse team went into Friday’s Section 3 Class B quarterfinal contest against visiting East Syracuse-Minoa wary and confident at the same time.
The third-seeded Purple Tigers had already beaten the No. 6 Spartans twice this season, 11-8 at home late last month and 9-7 at ES-M one week before the teams’ latestmeeting.
“Having beaten them on their Senior Night a week earlier, going ahead with just four minutes left after trailing the entire game, we knew they were going to be out for revenge today,” CHS coach Kim Pace said after her team’s 10-8 victory. “We also knew that if we could control the ball with our passing game and be very patient on offense we would be able to control the game.
“We were extremely successful with this for the first 30 minutes of the game, and were up 8-3 with 19:30 left when the skies opened up. The weather definitely had an impact on the second half. When it rained the sticks got wet and it became more difficult to pass and catch accurately. Since we play a passing game, we struggled a bit. The rain helped their running game as it was hard for our defenders to get the footing to stay with them.”
Sophomore midfielder Janelle Stegeland led the winners, now 13-4, offensively, scoring five goals, including three in a row in the first 5:14 of the second half to help the hosts move from a narrow 5-3 halftime lead to the 8-3 advantage that put them in control for good. She now has a team-high 41 goals on the season.
After ES-M had closed to within 8-5 Stegeland scored off a free position to make it 9-5 with 12:27 left. The visitors got back to within two goals again at 9-7 before Molly SanJule scored her only goal of the game, of a pass from Reagan, to pretty much sew things up at 10-7. ES-M could thereafter muster only a harmless goal with 1:11 remaining.
Beth Cutia scored twice, both in the first half, for Cortland, while SanJule had a goal and an assist. Katherine Hunsberger (first varsity goal) and Lauren Kostuk had one goal apiece to help the hosts overcome a 2-1 first-half deficit. Cutia tied the game at the 9:28 mark, while Hunsberger gave the winners the lead back for good 24 seconds later and Kostuk converted a pass from Bailey Reagan (three assists) 6:32 before halftime to make it 4-2. Cutia’s second first-half goal made it 5-3 CHS at the break.
“The entire offense executed our game plan very well,” Pace said. “We were extremely patient on every possession, allowing us to take some time off the clock and get off some great shots. We have talked all season about playing smarter and making good choices with and off the ball. Today the girls did it without being reminded by the coaches.
“Although Bailey and Molly were tightly-marked after their performances last week at ES-M, they continued to do a nice job of setting the offense down and helping to open things up fore their teammates,”she added, Regan with three goals and four assists and SanJule a pair of tallies the last time these two teams met. “Lisa Frare, Kim Hall, Emily Walsh (sophomore attacks) and (senior attack) Lauren Kostuk picked up their play to help move the ball when Bailey and Molly were being double-teamed. Janelle and Beth were our main scoring threats; both did a great job of finding the open lane and weaving through the ES-M defense.”
Pace also praised the defensive efforts of Kelly Griffin, Stephanie VanGorder and Nicole Cottone, who she said “continued to play strong, aggressive defense. They continue to be great communicators and direct the defense.”
Danielle DePerno played all but the last 1:11 in goal for Cortland and made 10 saves, while Victoria Convertini came on late and made one save, that pace termed crucial, with 45 seconds left. Each team took 19 shots in the game, and Spartan goalie Ashley Miller made five saves.
Jennifer Lewis scored three goals and Tricia Rodgers added two more for the Spartans, who finished the season at 8-10-1 overall.
“We have had some great games this season, but this was the best win and the proudest I have been of the team all season,” Pace said. “Beating a team three times in one season can be tough and ES-M didn’t let down for a minute, making it even tougher. But when they started to make a comeback midway through the second half, the girls held with them.
“Even when we had two goals taken away, for a crease violation and a stick check on which the stick didn’t turn out to be illegal, the girls didn’t get down on themselves and continued to play hard until the final whistle. This is another win that wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t play as a team. Everyone made the second effort on every play and contributed to the win.”
The girls’ win gave CHS a Class B quarterfinal sweep of ES-M, as the boys beat the visiting Spartans 10-9 in overtime.
Pace’s squad will go against second-seeded Watertown (14-4), which had a first-round bye, at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Solvay in the semifinals.



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