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November 16, 2007

 

Cortland women have high hopes

hoops

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Sophmore forward Jessica Laing is back in the SUNY Cortland line-up after leading the defending conference champions in scoring and rebounding.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

Of course expectations are high for the SUNY Cortland women’s basketball team.
With four starters returning off a squad that captured SUNY Athletic Conference regular season and playoff titles a year ago, that went two rounds into the NCAA Division III tournament before a stellar 26-3 season came to a conclusion, that is only natural.
The Red Dragons still have to live up to all the hype, however, starting with a stiff test at the Dickinson Tournament that gets underway Saturday evening in Pennsylvania.
“It’s tough to stay up there, but these are the challenges you hope your athletes respond to,” said head coach Jeannette Yeoman, who has 206 wins with only 48 losses in her 10th season at Cortland. “It’s always a new year, so even though you have a lot of players returning it is never going to be exactly the same.”
And this team is still relatively young, with forward Sara Cavanaugh the lone senior on the Red Dragon roster. She has already scored 1,111 points in her stellar career at Cortland — just 313 shy of the school record held by Kiki Seago (1989-93).
Last season the 6-foot Cavanaugh averaged 14.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, was second on the team in 3-point shots made with 53, had a team high 72 blocked shots defensively and was named the SUNYAC Player of the Year and an ECAC Upstate first team all-star.
The other three starters back are 5-11 sophomore forward Jessica Laing, 5-4 junior point guard Maggie Byrne and 5-10 junior forward Ali Canale.
Laing is coming off a sensational rookie season when she led the team averaging 16.5 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. She and Cavanugh were both SUNYAC first-team all-stars, Laing also named the conference and ECAC Upstate Rookie of the Year.
Honorable mention all-conference guard Byrne was called upon to run and contribute to the offense last year, and she responded by averaging 11 points and 4.2 assists per game. Oswego native Canale provides a steady inside presence coming off a season where she averaged seven points and six boards per contest.
Those four players will be joined in the starting lineup — replacing graduated Kerry Costello — by guard Kristin Ciccone, the 5-6 junior who stepped up to be a solid contributor come playoff time last season. A couple of sophomore guards are also back looking to contribute, Miranda Lustig and Danielle DeLay.
Developing depth is the biggest concern Yeoman has, however. “We need our bench to progress,” she says.
YEOMAN WAS LOOKING for Kim McMillen, a junior transfer from Cobleskill, to be a big help. But the 5-foot-10 forward injured her ACL early in pre-season and will not play.
Freshman guard Jennifer Patten, out of Bainbridge-Guilford High School, will also be out until after Thanksgiving while recovering from mononucleosis. Coach Yeoman hopes to have Patten back at 100 percent in time for second semester play.
Freshman Jennifer Polan (Westhampton Beach) can score off the dribble or from 3-point range and should contribute to the Cortland backcourt. Junior guard Meghan Mannion, a former Onondaga CC player out of Marcellus, is a quick guard who should also help along with fellow frosh Stephanie Spirawk (Horseheads) and Stefanie Parlow (Plainedge).
“I think they are talented, it’s just taking a little time to adjust. It’s at a different level of play, and it’s almost like a different game,” said Yeoman of the newcomers.
Depth will be important once the SUNYAC season rolls around, where the playoff champion gets the grand prize of an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III tournament.
“From top to bottom, the league is getting tougher,” says Yeoman, feeling Brockport and Oswego will again by main rivals for the top spot.  “And when you’re at Cortland, as every team here knows, you are going to get the other team’s best shot so you have to be ready to play every night.”
Last year’s success, which including going 15-1 in conference play and reeling off 21 consecutive victories before suffering a road stumble at Brockport, should help this year’s squad be ready for any challenge.
“ A GOAL OF ours would be to go deeper into the NCAA tournament, but with sports these days you just have to take it one game at a time,” said Yeoman.
That first game will be at 8 a.m. Saturday night against Shenandoah, looking to advance into Sunday’s title game.
After the tournament, the Red Dragons will have a bit of a break before opening SUNYAC play at Fredonia Nov. 30 and then opening at home against Nazareth on Dec. 1.

 

 

 

Marathon eager to take final state step

By TOM VARTANIAN
Staff Writer

There is one big difference in this group of Marathon Central boys who are competing in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C Soccer Final Four this weekend at the Wright National Soccer campus in Oneonta than the previous Olympian teams that have reached the Final Four.
This outfit was not expected to be here.
“The guys are loose and having fun,” said Olympian coach Chip Stewart. “We have a few little bumps and bruises so we are just looking to get healthy.
“I have said before that this is not my best team,” Stewart added with a chuckle. “They have worked hard to prove everyone wrong all season long and these guys really want to reach the championship game. That is something that we have never done before.”
The previous three trips to the Final Four resulted in Marathon losses in the semifinals to the team that eventually won the state title — to Keio in both 2002 and 2005 and to Maple Hill in 2006. The loss last year to Maple Hill was a tough 5-4 penalty-kick shootout after battling to a 1-1 draw in regulation and overtime play.
The 2007 Olympians (17-3-2 overall) are ranked third in the latest New York State Class C poll and they face second-ranked Blind Brook (16-2-2) from Section 1 at 11:15 a.m. Saturday on At-A-Glance Field, which is the stand-alone field to the far left as you enter the complex. The other semifinal is at 11:15 on Bettiol Field, the field closest to main road as you turn into the complex, between number one-ranked Galway (22-0) from Section 2 and fourth-ranked Red Creek (16-4-2) from Section 5. The Class C Championship match will take place on Wilber Field, by the National Soccer Hall of Fame building Sunday at 12:20 p.m.
Marathon is making its fourth trip to the Final Four. What has been the secret to success for the Olympians this fall?
“We have been playing well and doing all the little things right,” said Stewart. “The guys having really pulled together and are working well an a unit.
“We have developed a strategy over the past few games and it has worked well for us,” Stewart stated. “First, we need to score an early goal. Second, we get our second goal in the early part of the second half. Third, we count on our defense to continue its strong play and hang on for the win. This has become our M.O.”

 

 

Cortland, Union all ready to go bowling

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

A little resiliency will be called for in this ECAC Division III Northeast Bowl football fun.
Both SUNY Cortland and Union College will be trying to bounce back from similar disappointments in this special post-season opportunity to add a final victory to the win column.
The Red Dragons (7-3), who will host Saturday’s noontime ECAC match-up at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex, must get over losing 40-17 at Ithaca College in the annual Cortaca Jug game this past Saturday.
The Statesmen from Union (5-4), located in Schenectady, must get over losing 20-14 at home to archrival Rensselaer in the Dutchman Shoes game this past Saturday.
Neither team is a stranger to game like this. Cortland is making its fifth post-season appearance in the last six seasons, while this is Union’s fifth post-season game over the last eight autumns.
These teams are relative strangers to each other, however. Cortland and Union have met just once before — the Dutchmen winning 42-14 in the first round of the 1989 NCAA Division III tournament en route to an appearance in the Stagg Bowl title game.
Cortland coach Dan McNeill feels there will be no lingering hangover from the loss to Ithaca.
“No one was lamenting,” said MacNeill of this week’s lively practice sessions. “They are regretting the loss. I have the same regrets in the way we executed, or didn’t execute, against Ithaca.”
He points out the fact the Red Dragons have not won a post-season game since beating Westfield State 30-7 in 2002. He also points out an eighth victory would be something only nine other teams have done in the history of Cortland football.
“I think that’s pretty neat,” says MacNeill of the prospect of an eighth victory. “That is a neat prospective and it says that this is a pretty accomplished football team.”
He felt his team was ready last year, too — contrary to the belief that getting left out of the NCAA Division III tournament despite a 9-1 regular season took a toll on Cortland psyche. Cortland ended up losing 26-7 to a pretty good Rensselaer team in an ECAC consolation prize.
“Some people were saying we didn’t come to play, but I would say we didn’t have a lot of ammunition,” said MacNeill, pointing out the Red Dragons had a freshman fourth string quarterback making his first start and were without their starting tailback, nose guard and outside linebacker due to injuries. “And we had five turnovers, and you’re not going to be able to overcome that.”
Not that the Red Dragons are heading into this game all that healthy. Senior running back Dustin Bowser, senior cornerback Jeff Beck, junior safety Matt Berman and junior linebacker Adam McPartland will most likely miss this ECAC outing with injuries.