Saturday’s 12-8 loss to Quinnipiac in its Northeast Conference opener was painful for Mount St. Mary’s, but it’s not crippling for the preseason favorite to repeat as league champion.
The Mountaineers (3-5 overall and 0-1 in the conference) can get back into the race, but face a formidable stretch with road contests against Bryant (8-2, 1-0) this Saturday and Robert Morris (7-3, 1-0) on April 14.
It’s a daunting task that coach Tom Gravante has already digested.
“We have the ability to sweep and go 2-1 or we could very easily be 0-3 at the end of the Robert Morris weekend and fighting for a playoff spot, which would be really disappointing,” he said Tuesday. “We won the 2011 season, we’re the preseason No. 1, we haven’t graduated too many guys, we have three kids absent from the starting lineup, but we already determined that it’s not that bad without these kids as we beat the No. 19 team in the country. It’s a good team, but we just haven’t figured it out yet and how to play four quarters.”
Bryant has won seven consecutive games and boasts a defense that is ranked 13th in Division I after surrendering an average of 8.1 goals. Robert Morris has won four of its last five contests and features an offense ranked fourth in the country courtesy of a 12.8 goals-per-game average.
Gravante is hoping that the players are prepared to elevate their games.
“It’s early, but because the conference season is short, our backs are to the wall, and I hope it puts these kids under the microscope that they can manage,” he said. “I’m hoping this is a calling for these kids to raise the bar. … I’m hoping they’re angry and they’re ready to go because they’ve got their backs against the wall as we head up to Bryant this weekend.”