May 18, 2014

Cortland Outpaces Colby to Advance to Final Four

By Jacob Klinger | | Twitter

DRYDEN, N.Y. — Outrunning Colby (11-7) in the midfield, the No. 1 Cortland Red Dragons (22-0) flew past the Mules to post a 16–7 victory and earn its fourth consecutive Final Four appearance.

An overwhelmingly pro-Cortland crowd of 342 watched the Red Dragons shuffle into their offense, skip into their dodges and exhaust the visiting Mules across the full length and width of the field at Tompkins-Cortland Community College in the quarterfinals of the Division III women's lacrosse tournament.

As a result, the Mules were more likely to turn the ball over in their own defensive third as they were on attack.

"We like to put pressure on them so they can make their own mistakes," said senior Cortland defender Jessica Lavelle.

Colby stuttered out of the gate, dropping an open pass at midfield in its first possession, while Cortland strutted into its offense. Although the Red Dragons faced frustration with a less-than blistering start, they controlled the field from the opening whistle.

Erica Geremia jab-stepped toward and past her defenders, seemingly at will, to open the scoring at 27:51 in the first half. Before jogging back toward midfield, Geremia hugged her nearest teammate in celebration.

Meanwhile, the entire Colby team stayed huddled on the crease.

"When we needed to make it happen, we could," Geremia said.

Facing the Red Dragons, playing less than 10 miles from their own campus, Colby compounded its problems with a lack of draw controls and a multitude of turnovers that ultimately led to quick counter strikes from Cortland.

Colby turned the ball over 16 times compared to Cortland's 13, but nine of the Mules' giveaways happened in the second half, when Cortland ran away with the game, only giving the ball up five times.

Less than nine minutes into the second half, Kristen Ohberg checked Colby's Caroline Keaveney, who subsequently dropped the ball. Ohberg scooped it up and spun away from her defender in one smooth motion before darting past Colby's goalkeeper Claire Dickson and finding the back of the net to extend Cortland's lead to 12–4 with 21:02 to play.

Cortland continued pushing forward with the confidence needed to advance to the Final Four. 

"We just tell ourselves we play against the best defense in the world every day at practice," said Red Dragons senior attacker Taylor Reh. "And we beat them."

When Colby wasn't being challenged for possession, the Red Dragons were dominating the Mules on offense, led by Geremia, often in an iso play or against a double team.

Just more than two minutes into the second half with Cortland's six-goal advantage, Geremia kickstarted the offense 15 yards from goal, tripping up her defender, and with a quick step to the left, she looped a pass into a seemingly covered Reh, who finished for a goal inside.

"She'll see it for a second and I just — I don't even know," Reh said. "She just has such an eye and I knew that, instead of a turnover, go for it. And if I missed it, I missed it, but luckily I made it."

Though Cortland was outsized on both ends of the field, it didn't matter. Colby simply couldn't keep up.

When the Mules won draws, they ran into double or triple teams. They coughed up what little possession they had as Cortland defenders swarmed to the ball and pressured on and off 20 yards away from their own cage.

"If we beat them, if we outrun them, if we outscore them, if we outplay them, if we go to the ground balls, none of that matters," Lavelle said. "No height matters. We think that we have speed and that is what has got us this far."

After the game, Cortland coach Kathy Taylor didn't even have time to give her players a postgame speech. They began to scatter from their sideline to celebrate before she could congratulate them for their run-away victory.

"I need you for two minutes guys. I didn't have any closure," Taylor shouted. "Erica (Geremia), get your ass over here!"

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