The success of SUNY Cortland athletics will be on display this week as three teams are set to compete in the NCAA Division III tournament in men’s soccer, women’s volleyball and field hockey.
Cortland earned an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament by defeating Oswego State in the SUNYAC championship game, 6-0, last Saturday. The Red Dragons will host a four-team regional this weekend at T. Fred Holloway Field. The Red Dragons (16-2-1) will play Nazareth (13-1-3) in the first round at 5 p.m. Saturday, with the other first-round game featuring Gettysburg (13-5-2) and Kean University of New Jersey (12-4-3) at 7:30 p.m. The two winners will meet in the second round at Cortland at 6 p.m. Sunday.
“Nazareth won the Empire 8, and only have one loss on the year,” men’s soccer coach Steve Axtell said. “They’re a hard working team, who are well coached and very organized. We will have done our homework and be prepared, but there are only tough games from here on out. At this point, we want to keep working to earn another week together, that’s what it’s all about.”
It’s the 23rd NCAA tournament appearance for the Red Dragons and their fifth since 2014. In Axtell’s 10 years, Cortland has made the Sweet 16 in 2018, 2016 and 2014.
The Red Dragons head into the tournament ranked fifth nationally while on a five-game winning streak. Graduate student Blake Aronson leads Cortland with 13 goals this fall, including eight game-winning tallies. Anthony Ruggiero has 10 goals and six assists for 26 points. He’s scored five game-winning goals. Jack Coleman has five goals and leads the Red Dragons with eight assists. Braden Melveney has started all 19 games in goal and has a 0.67 GAA, an .831 save percentage and 10 shutouts.
Nazareth will be making its fourth appearance in the tournament after winning the Empire 8 title game against Houghton, 2-0, to secure the automatic-bid. The Golden Flyers have also won 14 games in a row.
Cortland secured an automatic bid with its victory over SUNY Geneseo last Saturday in the SUNYAC title match. It will be the 25th NCAA Division III tournament appearance in the program’s history and its first one since 2012.
The Red Dragons head into the tournament as the No. 2 with a record of 26-3. They are currently riding an eight-game winning streak.
Senior Hannah Southcott leads Cortland with 367 kills (3.95 per set) and a .284 attack percentage and is second with 257 digs (2.8 per set) in 26 matches. Senior Nicole Van Pelt has recorded 361 kills (3.4 per set) and a .218 attack percentage. Junior Carly Haegele paces the Red Dragons with 528 digs (4.98 per set) and 48 aces, freshman Alexa Guedez has a team-high 111 blocks (1.1 per set) along with 156 kills, and freshman Ryan Hinshaw and junior Meadow Wittman registered 522 and 367 assists, respectively.
The Red Dragons’ opponent is the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, who finished with a record of 22-3 and also secured an automatic bid when they defeated Manhattanville in the Skyline Conference Championship. The Mariners are making their first appearance in the tournament since 2017 and their fifth overall.
The first three rounds of the tournament are hosted by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, with the matchup between the Mariners and Red Dragons coming at 3 p.m. Friday. The winner will take on either third-seeded Tufts (18-5) or sixth-seeded Eastern (Pa.) (24-5) in the second round at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Despite falling in the SUNYAC Championship game against top-seeded SUNY New Paltz, Cortland secured a spot in the NCAA Division III tournament with an at large berth. This will be the Red Dragons first appearance in the tournament since 2017 when they fell in the second round.
The Red Dragons head into the tournament with a record of 16-2, with both losses coming from New Paltz.
Freshman Kierra Ettere leads the Red Dragons with 25 goals and eight assists for 58 points. Her 25 goals are the third-highest total in school history and her 58 points are tied for the fourth best at Cortland, and are both school freshman records. She scored at least one point in each of the first 16 games she appeared in. Junior Lily Fox has 12 goals and a team-high 11 assists for 35 points. Senior goalie Megan McGuinness is 16-2 with four shutouts, a 1.23 GAA and an .802 save percentage.
The Red Dragons have previously had success in the national tournament, winning titles in 1993, 1994 and 2001.
Ohio Wesleyan (10-5), is coached by former Cortland All-American and assistant coach Brenda Semit. The Battling Bishops earned an automatic berth after winning their first-ever North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) title with a 2-1 overtime win at Denison last Saturday in the league championship game. It is their first appearance in the tournament since 1995.
The Red Dragons host Ohio Wesleyan in a first-round contest on at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The winner will advance to take on Rowan University (16-2) in the second round on Saturday in Glassboro, New Jersey.