Cortland Set to Switch Gears
The set-up of the NCAA Division III tournament mandates that teams adjust to a new opponent in a matter of days, but there may not be quite a difference in styles than what Cortland will have to deal with from Saturday to Wednesday.
After subduing the run-and-gun Stevens squad over the weekend, 10-9, the Red Dragons must now entertain a methodical Union team in the quarterfinals.
"They are very different in their approach," said Cortland head coach Steve Beville. "Stevens is very manic with a heavy-pressure ride and they are going to cage all the time. Union is very deliberate, based a lot on cutting-off transition opportunities and playing a half-field game. It's very different, but honestly, we've seen both styles this year and you just have to react to what's in front of you."
This will be the second time that the Dragons and Dutchmen meet this season. The two clashed on March 3 in Cortland's second game of the season (and Union's first), with Cortland taking a 6-4 slugfest. In that game, Sean Aaron made 15 saves for the Dutch and the Dragons held a 6-2 lead with five minutes to go in the game.
Beville suggests not reading too much into that first playdate.
"Not when the game seems like it was three months ago," Beville said. "We're both very different from where we were in that first game. Some of the characters are the same, but there is a good chunk of guys on the first teams who aren't playing now. We both changed and adapted to the throes of the season and all of the different things that have happened throughout the year. When it is that far apart and the teams have changed their personnel, I don't think there's anything there."
Should we at least expect another low-scoring slugfest?
"You never know," said Beville. "There have been times we thought we were going to have those games and it turned out to be 12-11. Both teams are strong defensively and both have very strong goaltending. We can play the ball-control game, as well. You just never know. I don't go into any game thinking it's going to be this or that; we just react to what's in front of us and go from there."
Keeping in line with the low-scoring meme, Wednesday's game will showcase a pair of premium netminders in Aaron and Cortland's Mike Kaminski. Beville agrees that it will be one of the subplots in this match-up, but it's not the only storyline.
"Everybody's got good goalies," he said. "There wasn't one goalie we thought was unbelievable this year, but it just seemed like that everybody we played had a very solid goalie. Aaron is excellent. Our guy is excellent. I haven't seen All-American stuff, but I'm sure that they're both going to be All-Americans. They've both played well all year and I don't expect anything different. Aaron is a senior and Kaminski is a junior and they've both been in big games."
Wednesday date in the quarterfinals marks the furthest Union has ever advanced in the NCAA tournament while last year's quarterfinal flameout by Cortland marked the worst finish for the Red Dragons since 2005. The histories are different, but the hopes are the same for both teams.
"We just expect a real good game," Beville said.