Late Le Moyne Run Finishes Even Run With Cortland
|Le Moyne and Cortland battled
evenly for three quarter before the defending DII champs went on a
run with the reserves in for an 11-6 (unofficial) win in
CORTLAND, N.Y. – Le Moyne misses last spring's seniors. But the Dolphins are defending champions.
Both of those facts showed in an 11-5 scrimmage win against SUNY Cortland Friday night, where the Dolphins struggled to settle into their offense early before clawing back, then running away with six goals in a backup-filled fourth quarter.
"I think we just wanted to bang our head against the wall, you know everybody individually," Dolphins head coach Dan Sheehan said. "And I think once they maybe got a little bit tired, they didn't feel like they could run through that wall by themselves, so we start playing as more of a team."
Le Moyne's team was better.
Still, the Red Dragons won the physical battles in a matchup more marked by scraps for ground balls than offensive rhythm on either side. Defense and experience ruled the first-team portion of the game – most of the first three quarters – and Cortland had more of both.
Steve Abba and Stephen Burke slotted in comfortably, replacing the graduated duo of C.J. Nye and Craig Sullivan while Scott Tota made every save he should have.
The Cortland midfield simply jelled better, quicker. Mike Cantelli opened the scoring less than two and a half minutes into the game on a simple cut-and-finish above the crease. Matt Rakoczy tacked on a second, firing home from 12 yards out with 6:20 left in the first quarter.
The Red Dragons offense didn't cycle the ball around nearly as fast Le Moyne's did, but in the first quarter it worked – the defending champs' didn't.
"It's a lot of familiarity, knowing where guys are going to be from last season and season's previous," Cantelli said. "Being a junior now, I always know where Joe (Slavik) is going to be or where Matt's going to be."
On the other end, the Dolphins struggled to find each other as Sheehan searches for a cemented first-choice attack unit.
Kevin Kelly, Mike Jenkins and Chris Button lined up together midway through the first quarter while Chris Breiner also featured regularly in atttack.
Sheehan played Breiner, Kam Bumpus – who did not take many faceoffs after sitting out the national championship with a hand injury – Joe Corapi, Brian Rogers and Tim Beach heavily in midfield with the latter finishing unassisted into the lower-left corner from 12 yards out with nine seconds left in the first quarter.
The Le Moyne attack, though, was largely restricted to perimeter passing and quickly stunted runs at goal in the early going.
"I think that was the big thing, is our off-ball defense, our help out defense and talk was outstanding," Steve Beville said. "And that's because we have some seniors down there, Tota coming back after redshirting last year."
Beville credited Rakoczy for keying Cortland's first-half offense with two goals, the second coming after darting down the right hash marks and scoring from 12 yards to give the Red Dragons a 3-2 halftime lead with 3:44 left in the second quarter.
Nathan Garbarino fit in well alongside Zach Hopps, Cody Consul at attack, but the Le Moyne defsense, backed by Tim Birchler in goal, contained Cortland long enough for its own offense to wake up and slowly but surely seize control of the scrimmage.
Eric Chadderdon, Kyle Moyer and Mike Chambers shielded Birchler and later Pat Brothers, giving Cortland little to no room around the cage despite the chaotic nature of the contest. Of Cortland's five goals in the first three quarters, none came from in close.
Sheehan repeatedly complimented Birchler's performance afterward though the junior goalkeeper was quick to point out the competition to replace Jeff White remains wide open.
"I thought defensively we played very well," Sheehan said. "Not coming in and not having a scouting report you're going to take your lumps with that but I thought defensively we certainly got things to be positive about and offensively – I think we got some work to do."
In the third quarter, the constantly blocked runs at goal stopped and the Le Moyne offense grinded into gear, tossing the ball around the outside and picking out scoring windows.
Mike DeBottis punctuated the comeback with a 15-yard man-up tally from the right wing with 1:17 left in the third quarter to make it 5-5 before both coaches emptied their benches.
Ultimately, Sheehan and Beville left the stadium happier with their respective defenses than any play produced in the attacking areas, but the Dolphins system proved dependable again while Cortland looks far from gutted by graduation anywhere on the field.
"Le Moyne's going to challenge again for that D-II title, no question about it," Beville said. "And I think we're going to be pretty good too."
The scrimmage marked the end of Cortland's fall ball program, leaving Beville to look forward to Saturday's alumni game. Le Moyne, however, will host Rochester Institute of Technology and Onondaga Community College in a pair of scrimmages on Oct. 20.
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