October 27, 2006


Cortland blanks first tourney foe


Photo provided by Bill Sinsabaugh
Cortland High’s Amanda Cheetham gets off shot against V-V-S defenders Devon Croll(11) and Kasey Robb (27) during Thursday’s Class A first round game at Barry School. Cheetham had an assist in2-0 Purple Tigers win.

Staff Writer

Coach Abbey Albright liked what she heard Thursday afternoon as her Cortland High girls’ soccer team discussed things at halftime of their Section 3 Class A quarterfinal contest with Vernon-Verona-Sherrill at David Guido Field.
“As I was walking over I heard the girls discussing the same ideas I wanted to talk about,” Albright said with a smile. “I wanted them to play the ball to the feet, get it out of the center of the field — I knew that was how V-V-S liked to play it — and communicate better. For the most part they carried those things out in the second half.
“I knew the girls weren’t going to be happy with a 1-0 win on a penalty kick.”
That penalty kick, off the foot of Aubrey VanGorder with 18:07 left in the first half, gave the second-seeded Purple Tigers a 1-0 lead over the No. 10 Red Devils at intermission.
Katherine Hunsberger converted a pass from junior midfielder Amanda Cheetham with 5:39 left in the contest for the final margin in a chilly 2-0 victory that moved Cortland (now 15-3-1) into a semifinal matchup with No. 3 Whitesboro, which improved to 13-4-2 by beating No. 11 Jamesville-DeWitt 3-1. That contest is currently slated to take place on Tuesday, with the site and time to be determined.
V-V-S finished its season at 9-10.
“I saw V-V-S play Tuesday,” Albright said, referring to the Red Devils’ 2-1 win over archrival and host Oneida, the seventh seed. “I knew their strengths and some of their weaknesses we could capitalize on. We worked in practice against defending balls kicked up the middle of the field, and that’s what they did. I thought our defense did a nice job of adapting to it.”
Asked her thoughts on her team’s overall performance, Albright noted:  “Soccer is as much a mental game as it is a physical one, and at times our mentality is not totally there. It had nothing to do with Saturday (an emotional 2-1 overtime win at Homer to end the regular season) or practice this week. You have to come and play 80 minutes. The girls picked it up more in the second half.”
VanGorder’s penalty kick came after she was taken down in the box by V-V-S goalie Trisha Yerkie as both pursued a loose ball in front. The freshman calmly stepped to the line and rocketed a shot into the left side of the net.
“I was very nervous taking the shot,” the forward-midfielder said. “I think it helped us know that we could do it. Their goalie was standing so far to the right side that I knew I could beat her to the left. I think we could have played better, but the win is good.”
“The penalty kick threw us off,” Red Devils coach Scott Sutherland said. “I didn’t think it was a penalty, but don’t get me wrong — I also think that Cortland deserved to win. They played well. I don’t think the win over Oneida took anything out of us (emotionally). We had a couple of opportunities where we should have put the ball in. If we had, it would have made a difference.”
The visitors’ chances were few and far between. Despite the Purple Tigers not playing their best game, they rolled up a 23-2 shot advantage, and goalie Natalie Khazzaka made two saves for the shutout, staying in for the entire contests despite being shaken up in a late-game collision going for a loose ball in front of the Cortland net. Yerkie made 10 saves.
“It’s harder when it’s cold. You lose your focus a little because it’s so cold,” the senior netminder said. “I get nervous in these (sectional) games; anything can happen. Our defense always does a great job; they always have my back. I think they played well, but I think that we could have had more shots.
“I think we were a little overconfident coming in. We should approach every game like we’re playing Homer or CBA. But it didn’t take too long, once they got the ball on our side of the field, that it wouldn’t be a walk in the park.”
It wasn’t, as it finally took Hunsberger’s shot from the top of the box on the right side to seal the victory.
“Amanda Cheetham made a nice pass to me, and I just put it in,’ the sophomore forward said matter-of-factly. “I pretty much knew it was going in, but it was a relief. It’s harder to play teams that you haven’t seen because you don’t now what to expect.”
The sectional victory was the second in the history of the CHS program (now 2-2 overall in post-season), the other a 2-1 overtime win against visiting Fulton in the first round of last year’s Class A tournament. Albright, however, made it clear that the past isn’t important to her or her team.
“I emphasized to the girls that nothing before this game matters,” she said, expressing a philosophy that will be ongoing for the remainder of the Purple Tigers’ post-season run. “Our record, who scored the most goals, great plays by the defense; nothing matters except the next 80 minutes. It’s important that we maintain our focus.”




Refocused Homer breezes to victory

Still stinging from its only loss of the season last Saturday Homer Central girls came into Section 3 Class A Tournament play with a renewed focused and it translated into a dominating first-round victory.
The top-seeded Trojans got two goals each from Laura Buerkle and Emily Swisher and won their school-record 17th game this soccer season by shutting out eight-seed New Hartford 6-0 in the final game at George W. Butts Field for the seniors Thursday night.
It was the 15th shutout posted by Homer (17-1-1) this season. New Hartford finished a 10-8-1 campaign.
“This game was just what we needed,” said Homer coach Jim Baranello. “The girls played with a lot of confidence. I am very proud of the way that they bounced back from the Cortland loss.
“We did scrimmage Union-Endicott Tuesday and you could see that the girls were really focused again. We were able to spread the scoring out tonight.”
Homer will face rival Christian Brothers Academy (12-4-2) Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. Syracuse CBA won 5-0 over fifth-seed Indian River Thursday.
Buerkle got Homer on the board in the fifth minute of the game as the senior collected the rebound of her own shot and poked the second chance by goalkeeper Emily Zippin (nine saves).
The Trojans took a 2-0 lead in the 11th minute on a pretty goal by senior Meghan Finn. Erin McSherry delivered a pass to Finn on the right side of the field near the top of the box. Finn collected the half-volley and fired a shot into the back of the goal. It was the 14th goal of the season for Finn.
Swisher netted her first goal of the night on a solid direct kick in the 23rd minute.
Buerkle scored her 24th goal of the season six minutes into second-half play by converting a pass from Finn. Buerkle now has 64 points this season and 121 for her two-year Homer career.
Swisher scored for the second time in the game, eighth time this season, on another direct kick in the 50th minute before eighth-grader Kindrah Kohne closed out the scoring with her fourth goal of the season in the 65th minute.
Senior goalkeeper Hillary Simon made four saves in 48 minutes of playing time for the Trojans which Danielle Reygers stepping into the net for the final 12 minutes. The junior was not required make a save.




Red Dragons can’t look ahead

Sports Editor

With seven wins behind them and two huge rivals ahead of them, this would seem the perfect time to upend an undefeated SUNY Cortland football team.
And The College of New Jersey, Saturday’s 1 p.m. opponent for the Red Dragons at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex, has much more talent than a 3-4 overall record may indicate.
Still, coach Dan MacNeill does not foresee a problem with his confident Red Dragons looking beyond this week’s foe to upcoming showdowns with conference cohort Rowan and Cortaca Jug rival Ithaca College.
“We’ve been so immersed with the game plan for this game, it doesn’t appear we are looking ahead by the way we have practiced this week. This group has been pretty credible as far as_not looking ahead,” says MacNeill of his veteran players.
Cortland is coming off two huge road victories, topping Western Connecticut State 49-21 before handling Montclair State 41-3 last weekend. Ranked sixth in this week’s American Football Coaches Association Division III national poll, the 7-0 Red Dragons are off to their best start in 16 seasons.
So returning home for this special occasion, this being Homecoming/Hall of Fame Weekend at Cortland, the Red Dragons are well aware TCNJ is hardly a pushover. “This is going to be a four-quarter war. Every game they’ve had has been,” said MacNeill of the Lions prior to this New Jersey Athletic Conference contest.
The Lions have been feisty and mistake-prone, however. “We always find a way to make it tough on ourselves,” says head coach Eric Hamilton of his 30th season at the school.
This will be the sixth road trip Hamilton’s squad has taken this season, having just lost 10-3 at Western Connecticut State. In that game, TCNJ fell to 1-3 in conference play despite holding the hosts to a mere 157 yards of total offense.
The week before that, TCNJ went overtime to get past William Paterson 27-21. The week before that, TCNJ gave Rowan a tussle before losing 14-6.
“THIS IS BY FAR the best team on our schedule,” said Hamilton of the Red Dragons.
With a clean 5-0 slate against conference foes, the Red Dragons are a half-game ahead of Rowan (4-0, 5-1) in the NJAC standings. Cortland and Rowan were co-champions a year ago, and will meet next Saturday in Glassboro, N.J.
The Lions are capable of messing up Cortland future plans with a defense that has senior linebacker Derek Tranchina as their leading tackler and junior defensive end Joe King a 10-sack man. Tranchina was in on a dozen tackles, eight of those solo stops, against Western Connecticut State.
Freshman quarterback Christopher James is a threat to run and pass in TCNJ offense, which has senior Cory Schoonover averaging 54.4 yards rushing per game. Three of the 12 catches graduate student Ryan Ross has made are touchdown grabs.
Ross is a game-breaker who has returned kickoffs 95 and 82 yards for touchdowns this season.
Still, mistakes in close games have been killers for the Lions. “We’re striving to beat any other team besides ourselves,” says Hamilton.
Behind its own solid defense, Cortland has been a team able to pounce on other team’s mistakes — which was evident in last week’s romp at Montclair State.
“Last week was a huge indication of what field position is all about,” said MacNeill, as Cortland picked off five passes while limiting Montclair State to 187 yards of offense. “We delivered a short field for our offense and capitalized on it every time.”
That made life easier for sophomore quarterback Ray Miles, who completed 14-of-22 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns in his first collegiate start.
“Every repetition he takes is a step up,” said MacNeill of the progress of Miles, called into duty when junior Alex Smith suffered an injury two week ago at Western Connecticut State.
Smith’s status for the rest of the season will be decided next week, according to MacNeill.