CORTLAND — For the Cortland Purple Tigers field hockey, girls’ soccer and boys’ soccer teams, the abbreviated fall season will be an opportunity for new players to fill important roles made available by graduating seniors.
And with no state championships to play for, their coaches hope to make this season as memorable as possible for this year’s senior class.
‘EXTREMELY SPECIAL’ SENIORS LEAD FIELD HOCKEY
The lone blemish on the Purple Tigers field hockey team’s record in 2019 was enough to derail their championship hopes.
And that 2-0 defeat at the hands of eventual Section III Class B champion Holland Patent would usually be enough to motivate a team returning as many seniors as Cortland is to break through in this year’s tournament.
Except there won’t be one.
“I have nine seniors this year, some of which I have coached for all four years,” Cortland head coach Nicole Latham said. “This is an extremely special group of talented, hard-working athletes. They have spent months of quarantine working out on their own and learning new skills from YouTube videos.”
Those seniors — Delia Bair, Malana Booker, Makayla Cotterill, Kylie Davie, Claire Dearie, Meg Harrington, Rachel Kline, Kadison MacNabb and Bella Smith — return along with underclassmen Sarah Davis Howard, Celeste Perkins and Gabby State and newcomers Ryleigh Larkin, Emily Phelps and Chaenaya Underwood to hopefully make this shortened season a memorable one.
“Our player’s health and safety is the top priority this year and we are doing our best to navigate all the new rules and regulations to keep our players, coaching staff, officials and school safe,” Latham said. “Working with this group in their senior campaign has been a long time coming and I am excited we have the opportunity to have a season amidst COVID-19. I am really looking forward to seeing this team take the field and their outstanding penalty corner play that was a keystone part of our offense last year. This group has worked so hard over the years and I can not wait to see what they are able to do this season.”
The Purple Tigers host East Syracuse-Minoa in their season opener Monday night at 6:30.
GIRLS’ SOCCER LOOKS TO RELOAD
A solid 12-6 showing in 2019 will be tough to replicate for the Purple Tigers girl’s soccer team.
And that has nothing to do with the abbreviated schedule.
The Purple Tigers graduated 14 seniors from last year’s squad, including their two leading scorers, Tori Cruz (19 goals, 16 assists in 2019) and Lillian Quick (10 goals, one assist), and starting goalie Marissa Gilmore (.800 save percentage, seven shutouts).
“Due to losing 14 seniors last year, there’s lots of room for players to earn positions and playing time,” head coach Ilona Ryan said. “Players who showed self-discipline over the summer and did the workouts had a chance to reap their reward on the first day of tryouts by coming in to season fitter, faster, stronger, and with better ball control.”
They won’t be without talent, however. There’s still plenty of firepower on offense from Soleil Gutchess (eight goals, four assists), Kaitlyn Pratt (seven goals, one assist) and Ella Quick (four goals, seven assists). The back line will also get a boost as Hannah Partigianoni and Alex Gier return from injuries.
“It’s a blessing that we’ve been given the green light by our district,” Ryan said. “For many of these girls, this is an opportunity not only to become better soccer players and teammates, but also to develop their positive character traits of good leadership, courage, a strong work-ethic, and self-confidence. The girls adjusted nicely to some changes we made due to COVID as well.”
The Purple Tigers will kick off their season on Tuesday, October 6 at 6:30 p.m. at home against East Syracuse-Minoa, when they will also hold their Senior Night.
BOYS’ SOCCER READY TO BE ‘RELENTLESS’
Third-year Purple Tigers boys’ soccer head coach Luke Schweider saw struggles, but also positives in last year’s 3-10-3 season.
Arguably, their best game came against eventual state champions Jamesville-DeWitt, when they came back from a 2-0 defeicit on the road to salvage a tie, just before JD went on their winning streak to the title.
As for this year’s squad, “This is a very coachable team and I believe that we will be able to work hard and play hard in the games that we get,” according to Schweider. “There is good leadership from our seniors to get the team playing over the summer and early fall. They are just as eager to start the season as I am.”
Improving on a a 3-10-3 record will be hard to do after graduating offensive MVP Ethan Myers and defensive MVP Martin Monroe. Returning key players are second-year captain Henry Storch, Nick Yonta, Caleb Marsh and Owen Riley. Promising newcomers include goalie Scott Horigan and defensive back Derek Myers.
“Our focus this year is to be relentless,” Schweider said. “We are going to be persistent in achieving our goals. We want other teams to know that we mean business. By working hard at practice, I think we can build this reputation.”
The Purple Tigers begin their season with four consecutive road games, starting Tuesday at East Syracuse-Minoa. Their home opener is October 16 against Central Square.