The Tompkins Cortland and Hudson Valley Community College lacrosse teams have certainly become quite familiar with each other. Each of the past three years, the two teams have met once in the regular season and then again in the first round of the NJCAA Region III playoffs. In the past two years, the Panthers were the higher seed and hosted the playoff game, and both times, the Panthers advanced with close wins. This year the Vikings were the higher seed and hosted the Panthers in Troy on Wednesday. Once again this year, it was a close game, with the higher seed prevailing as the Vikings handing the Panthers a 12-8 defeat. With the loss, the Panthers end the year with a record of 2-7. Hudson Valley advances to the Region IIIB Championship game against Genesee Community College on Saturday. The Vikings have an overall record of 9-4.
When the teams played earlier this year, Hudson Valley dominated in a 17-4 win. This time Hudson Valley opened with a goal in the second minute of the game, but the Panthers answered with a goal by Dante Cuttino (Tully/Tully H.S.) to tie the game at 1-1. The Vikings scored twice late in the first quarter to take a 3-1 lead after the first 15 minutes of play.
The spread grew to 5-1 when the Vikings scored twice in the early part of the second quarter, but the Panthers ended the half on a strong note with Cuttino and Josh Canaan (Tully/Tully H.S.) scoring to make it 5-3 at the break.
The third started with the Vikings again scoring twice, making it a four-goal game again at 7-3. In danger of letting the game slip away, the Panthers responded with four straight goals, and Pat Hartnett (Cortland/Cortland H.S.) had a role in all four. The freshman scored the first three, and then assisted Jacob Lewis (Dryden/Dryden H.S.) on the goal that tied the score for the first time since early in the first quarter. With 1:03 left in the third quarter, the score was 7-7. Only a goal with 17 seconds left in the quarter broke the tie and gave the Vikings an 8-7 lead heading into the final quarter.
The final quarter was scoreless for the first five minutes, but Hudson Valley found the net twice over the next two minutes to make it 10-7. Another Viking goal with 2:44 left in the fourth made it 11-7 and seems to seal the result. But, as they have all season, the Panthers refused to give up. Lewis scored a goal off an assist from Hartnett with 1:05 left to make it 11-8. That would be as close as they could get, and when Hudson Valley scored with less than a second left on the clock, the final was 12-8 for the Vikings.
Goalie Ben Pallone (Cortland/Cortland H.S.) had another great game, recording 13 saves.
As has been the case all year, the Panthers played hard despite being handcuffed by a short bench. For most games this year, the Panthers dressed only 11 players, even winning one game this year with just 10 players in uniform. All the players on the roster and the coaching staff deserve credit, not only the effort they put forth all year, but for the results. Eight different Panthers scored this season, and while the team won just twice, they were competitive in most games. The season may have ended sooner than hoped, but it still should be considered a success.