Cortland, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Cortland outscored Tufts 8-1 over the final 26 minutes to overcome a 9-4 deficit and the nationally second-ranked Red Dragons defeated the fourth-ranked Jumbos, 12-10, in the NCAA Div. III men’s lacrosse semifinals at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
Cortland remained undefeated at 21-0 and will face top-ranked and unbeaten Salisbury University (22-0) in the national title game on Sunday, May 27 at 4 p.m. at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Cortland will be making its first title-game showing since winning the 2009 national championship. The Red Dragons will be in the NCAA Div. III finals for the seventh time overall and for the fourth time versus Salisbury. Cortland defeated the Sea Gulls in the 2006 finals but lost in both 2007 and 2008. The Red Dragons’ four previous national titles include the USILA College Division crown in 1973 and the NCAA Div. II title in 1975 in addition to the 2006 and 2009 titles.
Cortland junior goalie Mike Kaminski (Sayville) made a career-high 16 saves, nine in the second half. Tufts sophomore netminder Patton Watkins (Chattanooga, TN/McCallie) made eight of his 11 saves in the first half.
Ten Red Dragons scored at least one goal. Senior Mike Tota (Webster/Webster Schroeder) finished with two goals and two assists and freshman Matt Rakoczy (Clifton Park/Albany Academy) totaled two goals and one assist. Senior Zack Mulvaney (Deferiet/Carthage) added a goal and two assists, while sophomore Joe Slavik (Binghamton/Seton Catholic) and senior Eric Richards (Skaneateles) notched a goal and an assist each.
Senior Kevin McCormick (Laytonsville, MD/Georgetown Prep) led Tufts with two goals and one assist. Senior Geordie Shafer (Rancho Santa Fe, CA/Torrey Pines) scored twice, and freshman Cole Bailey (Millersville, MD/Severn) and junior Andrew Fiamengo (New Fairfield, CT) tallied a goal and an assist each.
The game featured three distinct runs, starting with a 4-1 Cortland surge over the game’s first 16 minutes. The Red Dragons led 3-0 nine minutes into the game on goals by Tota, freshman Mike Cantelli (Holmdel, NJ) and Richards and went up 4-1 after a goal by sophomore Cody Consul (Webster/Webster Schroeder) 21 seconds into the second period.
Tufts then unleashed a barrage of eight straight goals – seven in a six-minute span of the second quarter and the first goal of the third period – to take its largest lead at 9-4. McCormick and Shafer each scored twice during that run.
Cortland started its comeback on goals by junior Taylor Mendoza (Greensboro, NC/Western Guilford) and Tota at the 10:26 and 7:58 marks, respectively, in the third quarter. The Jumbos answered with a goal by sophomore Beau Wood (Sherwood Forest, MD/Severn) at the 6:51 mark to take a 10-6 lead but didn’t score the rest of the game.
Rakoczy found the net with 5:56 left and sophomore Eric Ohman (Islip) tallied with 1:05 left and the Red Dragons were within 10-8 after three quarters. Rakoczy’s second goal with 12:25 left in the game made it a one-goal margin.
Kaminski made two saves over the next two-plus minutes, but each time Cortland failed to clear the ball. A shot by Tufts’ Kirwan then hit the post with 10:02 left, and the Jumbos were called for a 30-second penalty on the ensuing Cortland clear.
Slavik then tied the game with 9:16 left just after the penalty had expired. Senior Greg Wright (Irondequoit/West Irondequoit) assisted on the Slavik goal and in the process became the ninth player in school history to reach 200 career points (95 goals, 105 assists).
After the teams traded possessions, Cortland cleared the ball and junior Tom Casey (Yorktown) scored off a Tota feed with 5:28 left to give the Red Dragons the lead. Following a Red Dragon turnover, Tufts had two potential game-tying shots miss the mark with less than five minutes remaining. Cortland cleared the ball and successfully ran the clock down before Tota turned the ball over at the 1:37 mark. However, Tota quickly forced a bad pass that Mulvaney scooped up and shot into an empty net with 1:31 left to close the scoring.
Cortland won the ensuing faceoff but turned the ball over with 1:13 left. Tufts had two shots in the final 50 seconds – one stopped by Kaminski with 48 seconds left and another go wide left with 31 seconds remaining.
Tufts finished the game with a 44-36 advantage in shots and a 14-of-17 success rate on clears compared to Cortland’s 20-of-29. Cortland picked up 35 ground balls to 34 for the Jumbos, and Tufts committed 22 turnovers to Cortland’s 21. Tufts won 14-of-25 faceoffs – all by senior Nick Rhoads (McLean, VA/Landon), who finished with nine ground balls. Cortland sophomore Doug Meehan (Sayville) recorded three of the Red Dragons’ 12 caused turnovers.