August 28, 2012
Nationally-ranked Red Dragon squads to debut
Three SUNY Cortland women’s squads will head into season-openers this weekend nationally-ranked in their respective Division III preseason polls.
The Red Dragons are listed a lucky 13th in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, the field hockey outfit is 19th in the Penn Monto/National Field Hockey Coaches Association rankings and the women’s soccer squad earned the 22nd spot from National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Continental Tire pollsters.
While the majority of Cortland’s fall outfits will be getting underway this weekend, including the football team’s Saturday noontime visit to Buffalo State, the cross country teams will not be off and running until the Hamilton Invitational on Sept. 8 and the women’s tennis team’s first match is Sept. 7 in Oneonta.
Here’s a closer look at teams getting things started this weekend.
Spikers Seed to Continue Success
Eighth-year head coach Pam Hoerup’s Cortland volleyball squad returns eight players from last fall’s 42-2 season that featured a SUNY Athletic Conference title and a run to the NCAA Division III quarterfinals for the first time since 2000.
The Red Dragons have made 23 NCAA tournament appearances.
Cortland’s tri-captains this fall are senior outside hitter Ashley Coyle, senior setter Kristen Guercio and senior middle hitter Natalie Zacpal. Cortland High graduate Kelly Knauerhase is a sophomore looking for playing time as an outside hitter.
Coyle led the Red Dragons with 484 kills and was second with 486 digs last season. She ranks third in school history with 1,354 career kills. Guercio finished last season with 1,625 assists and is second at Cortland with 4,532 career assists. Zacpal totaled 82 kills and 33 blocks in 24 matches last fall.
Cortland will host the season-opening 12-team Red Dragon Classic Friday and Saturday at Corey Gymnasium. The Red Dragons will also face 18th-ranked Mount Union from Ohio on Sept. 7 as part of the Nazareth College Golden Flyer Invitational and will play 2011 national runner-up and preseason top-ranked Christopher Newport from Virginia on Oct. 27 as part of the CNU Invitational.
Christopher Newport defeated Cortland in four sets in last year’s national quarterfinals.
Stickers Are Very Experienced
The Red Dragons, under 15th-year head coach Cynthia Wetmore, will open the season on Saturday hosting fifth-ranked Messiah College from Pennsylvania at 2 p.m. on a crucial non-conference clash.
Cortland returns all 11 players who started at least 13 games last season for a squad that finished with a 12-7 overall record.
The Red Dragons won the SUNYAC regular-season title with a perfect 6-0 mark and then took the league’s playoff title with a 2-1 overtime win over Oneonta in the finals.
Cortland played in the NCAA Division III tournament for the 27th time overall and the 20th time in the last 21 years, losing to Pennsylvania’s Franklin & Marshall in the opening round.
Senior forwards Sara Woodward and Danielle Groneman, along with junior midfielder Erin Smith from Greene, are the team’s tri-captains this fall.
Woodward led the team last season with 11 goals along with three assists for 25 points.
Groneman recorded five goals and one assist and Smith finished with three goals and a team-high eight assists.
In addition to hosting Messiah, the Red Dragons will play at top-ranked and defending national champion The College of New Jersey and eighth-ranked Skidmore College this season.
Cortland will also host ninth-ranked Montclair State and 13th-ranked William Smith College.
High Hopes for Women Booters
The Cortland women’s soccer team has eight players who started at least 12 games back from a 2011 squad that finished 14-6-3 and advanced to the NCAA Division III tournament quarterfinals. The Red Dragons won the SUNYAC regular-season title with an 8-1 mark and earned an at-large berth to the NCAA playoffs after falling in the conference tournament championship game.
Senior midfielder Stacey Wood and graduate student defender Kelly Wanser are team captains this fall for ninth-year head coach Heidi Woodcock. Wood totaled two goals in 23 games, all as a starter. She has started 58 of Cortland’s 63 games over the last three seasons. Wanser recorded three assists last fall and helped anchor a defensive unit that recorded 14 shutouts and allowed only 15 goals.
The Red Dragons open the season at SUNY New Paltz’s Michelle Vargas-Robin Memorial Tournament, facing New Jersey City Friday and the College of Mount St. Mary on Saturday.
The Red Dragons will play at 19th-ranked Ithaca College on Sept. 18, looking to avenge a loss to the Bombers in last year’s NCAA quarterfinals.
New Coach for Men’s Soccer
Former Cortland goalie Steve Axtell is the new men’s soccer head coach, named to that post after being an assistant the past two seasons. Axtell earned all-conference honors in 2008 and appeared in 39 career games with nine shutouts.
Cortland debuts with two road games later this week in Pennsylvania, facing DeSales on Friday and Muhlenberg Saturday.
Coach Axtell will look to improve on last year’s squad that finished 2-5-2 in SUNYAC play and missed the conference playoffs. The Red Dragons tied an NCAA Division III record by playing in nine overtime games, capped by a 3-2 victory over Oswego when then freshman Chris McBride scored twice including the game-winner. That win concluded a frustrating 3-8-5 campaign.
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