February 1, 2013

Local Product Di Fato Has Proven to be Recruiting Get for Cortland

Cortland All-American is LM's WD3 preseason player of year

After flirting with Division I schools, Maria Di Fato chose nearby Cortland. More local products have followed her lead.
© Jim O'Connor

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Cortland sells itself to recruits. Nestled in the hills of central New York, smack between Binghamton and Syracuse, the school is known across the region as a destination for athletes, a testament to its history as a training ground for physical education teachers.

With that focus on athletic education follows first-class facilities. Cortland's 6,500-seat stadium hosts the New York state high school girls' lacrosse championships each spring, and in the summer the NFL's Jets arrive for training camp.

But when you hail from nearby West Genesee, with its storied girls' lacrosse program that has captured six state high school championships since the turn of the century, there are certain expectations. And even though it boasts NCAA Division I-caliber talent and Division I-caliber facilitates, Cortland does its work in Division III.

This was the dilemma Maria Di Fato faced four years ago. When it came time to make her college decision, Di Fato narrowed her choices to UConn and Cortland — whether to serve in Division I or rule in Division III.

Di Fato chose well. Cortland has reached the NCAA semifinals the past two seasons, losing by two goals to the eventual champion both times. Last season, Di Fato was an All-American and ranked 15th in Division III with 76 goals. The multi-faceted senior midfielder also led the nation with 62 caused turnovers.

Di Fato set a trend. Cortland's roster features two freshmen from West Genesee, Erica Geremia and Nicole Bello.

Geremia, who was named tournament MVP after West Genesee won the New York Class A championship last May, was weighing the same UConn-Cortland decision.

Di Fato convinced Geremia to stay close to home with a chance to play and win now.

"I credit Maria way more than myself for getting these two talented kids from West Genesee," Cortland coach Kathy Taylor said. "Geremia even plays like her."

Di Fato wasn't always so diplomatic. She arrived on campus with an aggressive playing style that frequently led to penalties.

"I was kind of spazzy," Di Fato said. "I didn't feel accomplished unless I got the ball back. I think I broke the record at West Genesee for fouls. That's not a good thing."

A more disciplined Di Fato swiped 2.82 turnovers per game in 2012. She will be expected to do more this season after Lindsay Abbot, who holds most of Cortland's records, graduated.

"With Maria in the game, you feel like anything is possible," Taylor said.

This article appears in the February issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.


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