Facing the No. 9 ranked team in the country can certainly come with its challenges.
And, for a half, the SUNY Potsdam men's lacrosse team met many of those challenges by playing right with the traditionally-strong Red Dragons, who reached the NCAA Division III Final Four just a season ago.
The second half was a different story though as Cortland ramped up its offensive arsenal and made the most of Potsdam turnovers on its way to a 15-3 victory Saturday at Maxcy Turf Field in each team's SUNYAC conference opener.
It started out positive for the Bears (4-3 overall, 0-1 SUNYAC) as Potsdam was able to effectively work the ball around the field and use a ball-controlled offense to its advantage.
Sophomore midfielder Pat Bonafede (Churchville, N.Y. / Churchville-Chili) picked up where he left off from his career-high three-goal outing against Utica College on Thursday with a goal on a crossing pass from junior Jon Woodworth (Carthage, N.Y. / Carthage) to help Potsdam strike first.
Cortland's Zach Hopps began his five-goal day when he scored unassisted with a double move to tie at 1-1 with 3:33 left in the first quarter. Hopps had been Cortland's main threat in the playoff meeting between the schools last May when his six-point outing lead to a 15-6 victory in the SUNYAC quarterfinals.
The Red Dragons (6-3 overall, 1-0 SUNYAC) needed just 21 seconds into the second quarter to take its first lead when Cortland earned a draw control and quickly got down the field. Junior attacker Benjamin Dunlavey scored from the near side about five yards away from the net on a feed from Hopps.
Coming across to his left side, Woodworth evened the score at 2-2 unassisted with 12:16 left.
But, as the half wore on, the Red Dragons were able to execute more ball control within their offense and reclaimed the lead on a goal by senior midfielder Mike Cummings at 10:47. Hopps added another goal two minutes and one second later and proceeded to notch his third score of the afternoon with 40 seconds remaining in the half to extend the lead to 5-2.
The second half belonged to Cortland as the Red Dragons extended their lead to 8-2 at the end of the third quarter. Senior Nate Garbarino pushed the lead to 6-2 after a man up advantage had just expired for the Bears. Hopps' unassisted goal at 3:42 and Cummings' net finder on an assist from Mike Hart came with 1:17 left.
In the fourth quarter, the Red Dragons asserted even more control by winning draw controls and implementing their quick-strike offense. Cortland won 18-of-22 face offs and was able to create opportunities from Potsdam's 19 turnovers.
Connor Johnston, Hopps, Connor Scavone, Cummings, McLaren Brady, Zach Brownlee and Austin Brady all tallied scores in the final stanza to balloon the lead to 15-2.