July 16, 2009

By Doug Kroll

With the 2008-09 season fading into memory and fall practices still a month away, NCAA.com is spending two weeks in July looking back on 10 athletic programs that stood not just once, but twice (and, in three cases, thrice) atop the college sports world with national championships in '08-`09. From Messiah's magic soccer runs to Washington's scintillating softball title, this 10-part series showcases the schools that helped to define another unforgettable year of college sports.

Messiah (July 9) | Texas A&M (July 10) | Penn State (July 13) | Messiah (July 14)
Maryland (July 15) | Cortland State (July 16) | Washington (July 17) | North Carolina (July 20)

Cortland State Championship Photo Gallery

It's not as if Cortland State had never won a national championship before. Heading into the 2008-09 school year, the Red Dragons had 21 national title trophies littering their history.

But for a men's cross country program that entered the season ranked No. 1 in the nation, having never won a title before, there was a feeling that this could be the year that they finally joined the party. After all, their women counterparts had notched national titles seven times.

And then there was the men's lacrosse team. Yes, the Red Dragons won the Division III national championship in 2006, but the 2007 and 2008 seasons brought heartbreak. Losses in the national championship game each year to Salisbury can do that to even the most hardened players and coaches.

The good news for Cortland State? They finished the year with 23 total championships.

Click here for the men's lacrosse interactive bracket!

The year started well for the cross country squad back in September. The group finished ninth at the Lehigh Paul Short Run out of 45 mainly Division I programs.

And it continued through the SUNYAC Championships, dominating the field in Castile, N.Y., placing seven of the top 10 runners and nine of the top 12 to easily secure the championship.

It wouldn't stop there.

Senior Josh Henry finished in third place at the NCAA Regionals and all seven Cortland State runners earned All-Region honors as they dominated the competition to head back to the NCAA Championships in Indiana.

And then it was finally time to join their women's cross country counterparts in the trophy case. The Red Dragons once again placed all seven of their runners in the Top 75, outpacing North Central (Ill.) by 35 points for the win with junior Seth Dubois leading the way.

Things didn't end there, though, for the Cortland State athletic department. A department that saw itself finish in fifth place in the Division III Director's Cup standings at the end of the school year struck again six months later.

This time, it was the Men's Lacrosse team's turn for a magical ride. Yet this postseason wasn't quite as easy as that for the Men's Cross Country team.

Being in the national championship game three straight seasons can add a lot of pressure to get back for a fourth, and the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament for the Red Dragons saw a couple of the toughest games they had seen.

Holding on for a 15-12 win over Middlebury in the Second Round of the tournament, after a first round bye, set up a meeting with Western New England College.

Senior Joey Morgan netted what would be the game-winner in that one, with just 45 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, which saw Cortland State win a game in which they scored six or fewer goals for the first time since 2003, with a 6-5 win.

After a win against Middlebury in the semifinals, it was time to head to Foxborough, Mass. and face one of the hottest teams in the country.

Gettysburg had won 14 games in a row entering the national championship game. But Junior Brandon Misiaszek would have none of it. The New Hartford native scored a career-high five goals, and was named Most Outstanding Player of the game.

The Red Dragons fell behind 4-2 early, but rattled off a 7-0 run to go up 9-4 thanks in large part to Misiaszek's nifty stickwork.

"He played outstanding. There's a reason why he was selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the game today," Head coach Steve Beville said after the game, "Because his performance was just that. It's been like that all year for us -- pick your poison."

Beville's first national championship in his three years at Cortland was also his 200th career win.