Purple Tigers reach Class B final

Staff Writer

SOLVAY — The momentum shifts that took place in Tuesday’s Section 3 Class B girls’ lacrosse semifinal between Cortland High and Watertown at Solvay’s Earl Hadley Stadium might have registered on the Richter scale.
The third-seeded Purple Tigers came out strong and scored the game’s first three goals in a span of 7:43 before the second-seeded Cyclones regrouped to score the next four goals in 5:18. Cortland coach Kim Pace had called a timeout after the tying goal, and after her team was behind briefly sophomore midfielder Janelle Stegeland scored the next two goals to forge a 5-4 halftime lead.
As it turned out, Cortland was ahead for good.
The first two goals of the second half gave the Purple Tigers some breathing room, and they went on to score a 10-7 victory, earning a spot in Thursday’s 5 p.m. Class B championship game against top-seeded Carthage (14-4) at Central Square. The Comets advanced with an 11-9 win over fourth-seeded Jamesville-DeWitt (10-8) in the night’s first game.
“After we scored three quick goals (the first by junior midfielder Beth Cutia just 29 seconds into the game) we let down for a few minutes, which allowed Watertown to answer with four goals of their own,” said Pace, whose team won its 10th game in a row and takes a 14-4 record into the title contest.
“We called a timeout to regroup and make a few defensive adjustments. The girls, who tend to play to the level they have to and had started to play down a little, realized that they were going to have to give a full 50 minutes with no let-downs if we were going to win. After their quick scoring spree midway though the first half, we were able to control the game for the rest of that half and most of the second.”
“Cortland played solid and didn’t turn the ball over that much, while we did,” said Watertown coach Nunzio Fazio, whose team finished the season at 14-5. “We didn’t get back defensively as quickly as I would have liked, which led to a couple of easy goals for them. They possessed the ball well, too; they’re a good, solid team.
“We didn’t shoot well — we could have gone for the corners more — but their goalies played well, too.”
Danielle DePerno started in the Cortland net and made 11 saves, while Victoria Convertini came on around the midway point of the second half and stopped two more shots. Watertown goalie Rachel Fazio, the coach’s daughter, made four saves, including a couple down the stretch to give her team a chance for a comeback that would never materialize.
In fact, Cortland was up 10-5 before the Cyclones scored the game’s final two goals in the last two minutes of the contest to make for a more respectable final score.
The Cortland defense was a big key to the victory, as especially in the second half Watertown had a hard time getting anywhere near the goal, most often having the ball stolen or a pass intercepted before getting off a shot. Junior midfielder Kimmy Natoli’s goal 1:36 into the second half set that tone, as she intercepted a pass and went the length of the field to score over Fazio’s left shoulder.
“The defense played outstanding tonight,” Pace said. “While our offense did a tremendous job of getting us the early lead, the defense stepped up time and time again to slow down Watertown and help us maintain our lead. Our entire defense has worked hard all season on becoming a strong unit, communicating with one another and helping each other to adjust to our opponents’ offense.
“The strength of our defense showed in that Watertown had very few one-on-one opportunities to go to the goal. Tonight the entire defense did a good job of sliding to help one another out. Our defense is so strong because they know they cam rely on one another and will never be left alone to defend a drive. Stephanie VanGorder, Kelly Griffin and Danielle DePerno did a great job of directing the defense again; Danielle came up big in the beginning of the second half, making eight saves in a 12-minute period.”
Pace also noted that Convertini was strong as the game wound down, as she made two big saves when Watertown was making a last effort at a comeback. Cortland ended up with a 20-18 shot advantage.
“I thought I was on,” DePerno said, having played more then the customary half she’s been used to all season as Pace played each of her goalies a half apiece. “I knew I had to step up and play a good game to help us win it.”
Pace had kind words for her midfield, which she said “continues to dominate with their passing and pressuring. Janelle Stegeland, Molly SanJule, Caitlin Stevens, Natalie Muka, Natalie Khazzaka and Beth Cutia played very aggressively and took advantage of Watertown’s mistakes. All season long the girls have taken pride in our midfield transition; again to day the passing was outstanding. We did a great job of moving the ball around Watertown and passing before being pressured.
“One again, with six different goal scorers, our balanced attack made it very difficult for the other team to stay with us on our offensive end. Our motto is ‘Hands, Heart and Hustle.’ And the girls did a good job in all three areas. We seem to come together more and more as a team every game; everyone is taking advantage of every opportunity they have to contribute to our success.”
As mentioned, after each team had its turn at an early offensive flurry, it was Stegeland who scored two goals in a row to put Cortland on top for good.
“When we got back up it pumped us up and got us back in it,” said Stegeland, the team’s leading scorer with 43 goals. “We ran one of our plays on the goal that gave us the lead back; the team cleared out really well for me and I got an open shot. We were a little iffy at halftime, but we knew we had it.”
“We had our best pump-up of the season before the game; Kimmy read a poem that she wrote about playing as a team.”
Bailey Reagan led Cortland with three goals, while Cutia scored twice and added an assist and Stegeland had the two decisive goals. Natoli, Muka and Emily Walsh scored once each. Erin Fitzpatrick had three goals to lead Watertown, while Maria Martusewicz scored once and added two assists.
In looking ahead to Thursday’s championship game, Pace, who with her team saw part of the other semifinal, said: “Carthage has a few strong players who we are going to have to key in on, but it should be a pretty evenly-matched game. At this point in the season, anything can happen.”
“I’m a little intimidated, but I think we can do it,” Stegeland said when asked about her impression of Carthage. DePerno then said, “If we play our game, we can do it,” to which Stegeland smiled and said, “If we play as a team, no one can beat us.”
Coach Fazio has a unique perspective on the title tilt, his team having lost to Frontier League rival Carthage twice during the regular season. “The two teams are very evenly matched,” he said. “It should be a really good game, and everyone should go to see it. It will come right down to the wire.”


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CHS upset bid spoiled by J-D

Staff Writer

CICERO — When your reputation is on the line, the best players step up and take control.
That is exactly what Jamesville-DeWitt senior Keith Vetter did Tuesday night at Cicero-North Syracuse High School as the All-American attackman turned the Michael J. Bragman Athletic Complex carpet into his personal playground.
The top-seeded Red Rams trailed upset-minded Cortland High 7-6 at intermission before Vetter netted three second-half goals and dished out three of his game-high five assists as J-D rallied for a convincing 16-8 victory to advance to the Section 3 Class B championship game. Vetter scored four goals in the game for the Red Rams.
J-D will face third-seed New Hartford (16-4), a 10-4 winner over second-seed Carthage (13-6) in the first game of the lax doubleheader, Saturday at 5 p.m. as both teams return to C-NS.
“Keith has been doing that for us all year long,” J-D head coach Jamie Archer said. “He is an All-American for a reason. He steps up against whoever we play. If you double him he will find the open man, and if you don’t he will take it to the goal.”
“We played three tremendous quarters,” Cortland coach John Spallone said after a 13-7 season concluded. “We were right in the game and where we wanted to be. It was a tremendous effort by a young group of kids.”
The first quarter went back-and-forth with three lead changes and four ties as J-D took a 5-4 lead. The Red Rams scored first with 10:49 left in the quarter when Thomas Anthis scored an unassisted goal on a bounce shot from 12 yards out, but junior midfielder Theo Bishop moved in from the right wing and blistered a shot into the upper left corner of the cage just 26 seconds later to pull Cortland (13-7) even at 1-1.
Nick Marshall gave J-D a 2-1 lead with 9:36 left in the quarter, but a pair of Taylor Brown goals, both unassisted, tied the game and put the fourth-seeded Purple Tigers on top 3-2 with 6:22 to play. The first Brown goal was a man-up tally, but it was the only time the Purple Tigers would take advantage of the extra man in attempts.
Vetter used his play-making abilities to dish out assists on goals by Christian Daly (6:09) and Anthis (man-up, 5:29) as J-D retook the lead at 4-3.
The period ended with Nate Thomas scoring off a Bishop assist for the Purple Tigers to tie the game at 4-4 with 3:20 left before Vetter notched his first goal with 15.8 seconds showing for the one-goal cushion.


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