March 29, 2012

WD3 Notebook: Oneonta's Newbies Only Know Success

by Mark Macyk |

Oneonta senior Rebecca Monteith leads the team with 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) and is one the verge of breaking the program's 25-year-old all-time scoring record. The Red Dragons are 6-0. Their freshmen don't know what it's like to lose.
© Oneonta Sports Information

The bus pulling away from Hamilton's campus on Tuesday revealed a familiar scene. A visiting team leaving Steuben Field in stunned silence.

But as Oneonta settled in for its 90-minute drive home, goalie and senior captain Annelise Muscietta saw some something wrong with the picture. After all, Oneonta had just won at Hamilton, 13-12, something only one other team had done since 2006.

"We got on the bus and everyone was kind of silent," said Ali Pollock, Oneonta's first-year head coach. "Then [Muscietta] said 'How is everybody not so excited right now?' I think we were all in shock."

For Oneonta's four-person senior class of Muscietta, Rebecca Monteith, Heidi Kissinger, and Samantha Voor, that may have been true. They endured a 3-13 season a year ago and watched Hamilton walk away with a 21-12 victory in the 2010 season-opener. They may have been aware that Hamilton had won 23 in a row over the Red Dragons.

But for Oneonta's 10 freshmen, four of them starters, the silence was an indication of something else. Business as usual. They were used to winning.

"Our freshmen don't know what it's like to lose," Pollock said. "They walk in expecting to win. I don't think they realize how big of a win it was because they're like, 'That's what we've been doing all season.' They don't know anything else. They were going into Hamilton as a 5-0 team and weren't leaving at 5-1."

It was a huge win. Hamilton's first year in the NESCAC has been marked by close losses to good teams. The Continentals have lost five games by a combined seven goals and haven't lost a game by more than two. They're two years removed from a trip to the NCAA championship. This is a 2-5 team on paper only.

Oneonta's season had been building toward this. The Red Dragons (6-0) opened with three wins, then went down to Long Island and handed Farmingdale its only loss of the year, 14-13, on March 20. Three days later they beat St. John Fisher by seven. The Hamilton game was the Red Dragons' third one-goal victory this year.

"I told them one-goal wins say a lot about a team," Pollock said. "We have a lot of heart. We have great attitudes. We strive to be the best in practice and we play like we practice."

That was clear at Hamilton, where Oneonta survived a game featuring eight ties in which neither team ever led by more than three.

Hamilton's Katie D'Antonio tied it for the final time at 12, scoring her fifth goal with 7:25 remaining. Two minutes later Nikki Fioretti scored the game-winner off an assist from Monteith and Oneonta held on to win.

"[The final minutes] were very, very exciting," Pollock said. "It's stressful, but I was so confident that they would pull off the win. The girls on the sideline were very loud and encouraging."

Confidence is sky high at Oneonta right now and that begins with the senior class. Monteith leads the team with 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) and is one the verge of breaking Oneonta's 25-year-old all-time scoring record. Kissinger is currently third in Division III with nine draw controls per game. Muscietta made eight saves against Hamilton, including a big one in the game's final minute. If Oneonta wins its next game, it will match the best start in program history set in 2003.

But what happens when those undefeated freshmen get a taste of losing? Oneonta's SUNYAC schedule is tougher than ever this year, beginning this weekend with Buffalo State, which also beat Hamilton by one. That's not even mentioning the other Red Dragon in the room, No. 3 Cortland, which Oneonta hosts on April 24.

"It's going to be tough if we do lose a game," Pollock said. "But at the same time it might be good to exploit our weaknesses. Hopefully it happens in the beginning of conference play. I think a loss could be good for them. A win would definitely be better."

Forecast: Mostly SUNY

Oneonta's not the only team making noise as New York's public schools get ready for SUNYAC play. Seven of the conference's nine squads currently sit above .500, and several have some marquee wins to hang their hats on.

No. 3 Cortland (5-1) has one loss, but remains New York's finest. The Red Dragons' loss came by one goal to No. 2 Salisbury and they followed that up by beating No. 8 Franklin & Marshall and No. 4 TCNJ. Cortland defeated 2011 NCAA tournament team Ithaca, 17-6, on Saturday behind three goals and six assists from Lindsay Abbott, four goals and three assists from Maria Di Fato and five goals from Erin Kollar. Cortland plays at Oswego (1-2) on Saturday.

Buffalo State (7-2) has shown a flair for the dramatic in the early season. The Bengals have scored one-goal victories over Hamilton, St. John Fisher and Ithaca. In Wednesday's 13-12, overtime victory over Ithaca, Ashley Caporizzo delivered the game-winner, 36 seconds into overtime. Saturday's game at Oneonta, should help decide the No. 1 contender to Cortland's throne.

Fredonia (6-2) defeated 2011 NCAA tournament team Adrian, 15-14, on Saturday and opens its SUNYAC season this Saturday at New Paltz (4-3). The only loss for Brockport (4-1) came by one to St. Lawrence and the Golden Eagles beat 2011 NCAA tournament team Claremont-Mudd-Scripps by nine earlier this year. Brockport hosts Potsdam (3-4) on Saturday. Geneseo (3-1) has just one loss, to Ithaca by one, and gets its conference season going at home against Fredonia on Wednesday.

Generals Play Two

No. 15 Washington & Lee swept the ever-rare, two-road-games-in-one-day doubleheader on Tuesday, winning at Sweet Briar, 23-2, and Randolph, 21-2.

The two Old Dominion Athletic Conference games count as just one date, helping W&L load its non-league schedule that has already included wins over No. 20 Stevenson, No. 18 Catholic and Christopher Newport and losses to No. 8 Franklin & Marshall, No. 2 Salisbury and No. 13 Mary Washington. The Generals (8-3) play at No. 1 Gettysburg on April 22, a final non-league tilt sandwiched between the ODAC regular season and tournament.

Thiel Wins First Game

Thiel College, a first-year program in Western Pennsylvania, earned the first win in team history on Wednesday, defeating visiting West Virginia Wesleyan 14-4.

Six different players scored for the Tomcats, who were led by Carley Cobb's five goals and Asia Wallace's 10 saves.

Gettysburg Heads to TCNJ Friday

Last season TCNJ came into the NCAA tournament unbeaten and ranked No. 1 but Gettysburg won it all by defeating Bowdoin, which knocked out TCNJ.

This season Gettysburg has been ranked No. 1 all year and hasn't lost. TCNJ has one loss, by one to Cortland. Friday's showdown in New Jersey could be a championship game preview. It also features two players on the Tewaaraton Watch list: Gettysburg's Hannah Church and TCNJ's Leigh Mitchell.

A six-goal effort in Tuesday's 15-8 Gettysburg victory over Dickinson helped Church become the eighth Bullet to register 200 career points. Church leads Gettysburg with 25 goals and six assists this season. Mitchell leads Division III with 54 assists, and also has 11 goals.

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