The distance between SUNY Cortland and Le Moyne College is peanuts-nothing. A 45-minute drive on I-81 North, merge here, a couple turns there and you’ve reached academia.
And this weekend, both teams will meet at the same destination: Adelphi University, the site of this year’s NCAA Division II and III women’s lacrosse semifinals and national championships games.
Last Sunday, the Red Dragons downed Colby 15-4 in a regional matchup at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex. Junior Lindsay Abbott (Onondaga) led her team with four goals and five assists. Abbott became the first player in Cortland women’s lacrosse history to reach 300 career points.
Cortland will face a mirror image of themselves in Gettysburg this Saturday at 8p.m. The winner will advance to the championship game versus Bowdoin/College of New Jersey Sunday at 3 p.m.
“They (Gettysburg) are a complete team,” head coach Kathy Taylor (former coach at Fayetteville-Manlius) said. “They attack the cage with a lot of scorers. They defend. Even in the games they have lost, it has traditionally been low scoring. They are very strong in their draw and have a solid goalie in cage.”
In Division II, the no. 2-ranked LeMoyne Dolphins beat No. 5 Dowling 18-9 last Saturday and will take on conference foe
and two-time national champion Adelphi for the third time this season.
The Dolphins are 0-2 against the Panthers, with its last loss coming in the Northeast-10 conference tournament championship 17-11. The winner of this third and most important encounter will take on Limestone or West Chester Sunday at noon.
Junior attacker Brittany Brigandi (CBA) and senior attacker Michelle Phillips (Maine-Endwell) once again headlined the Dolphins offensive unit with five and four goals, respectively. Brigandi has amassed 100 total points on the season, 82 goals and 18 assists; Phillips, 42 goals and 16 assists.
Although head coach Beth Hewitt (a Liverpool graduate) said her main focus has been solely on the team, some minor adjustments were made, starting with transition.
“Our focus for the game is to get better at what we do and worry about us and how we are playing,” said Hewitt. “We know they are a run and gun team. We’ve been working on transition for the last week or so and want to make sure the girls are prepared for that part of the game.”
Taylor pinpoints transition as a focal point, too.
“Transition needs to be crisp,” she said. “It needs to be better than what it was against Colby. We didn’t clear the ball as well as we should.”
The bright lights of playing on the biggest lacrosse stage comes with excitement and nerves. Cortland captains Abbott and senior defender Melissa Kane are there to put it into perspective.
“Lindsay and I are responsible for keeping the team focused and well prepared for this upcoming week,” Kane said. “This weekend is going to be new and exciting for all of us but we have to make sure that we do not forget why we are here and what we want to accomplish this weekend.”
Senior Dolphin midfielder Rebekah Elmer (West Genesee) is savoring the opportunity in a different way – because it may be her last.
“I feel that these last three weeks have been an eye opening experience for the six of us seniors,” Elmer said. “We have hit that point where we realized that this is it for our lacrosse careers. I feel that each day, whether if it’s a game or practice, we are giving it all that we have.”
Aside from mastering the draw control, both teams will rely on its aggressive defense to tame its opponent’s offense. Dolphins’ senior defender Katlin Walker – 51 ground balls, 28 draw controls and 33 caused turnovers – heads the defensive monster which averages fewer than seven goals per game.
“Our defense is designed to put pressure on the offense forcing them to make quick decisions,” said Walker. “We try not to allow teams to run set plays, which most are used to and rely on.”
The Red Dragons defense holds its own, averaging roughly 7.23 goals a game. Goalies Shauna Hutchinson (50 saves) and Ally Levy (104 saves) have been a dual threat in between the pipes.
“For our area in particular, we have a lot of [lacrosse] pride between Syracuse, Le Moyne and Cortland,” Hewitt said. “It would not only be important for our team, but for our community to get a championship back here.”