No. 4 Stevenson is 14-4 and despite falling to No. 1 and nine-time reigning national champion Salisbury in Saturday’s Capital Athletic Conference tournament final, the Mustangs are virtually assured of a berth in the NCAA tournament.
But each of their four losses have been marked by runs made by opponents. No. 3 Lynchburg scored all four goals in the second half en route to a 6-3 win on March 10, and No. 2 Cortland embarked on a 4-0 run in the first 4 minutes, 28 seconds of the third quarter for a 13-9 victory.
And the Sea Gulls used similar spurts to sweep Stevenson. They closed out an 11-10 decision on April 14 with an 8-1 run and used stretches of 6-0 in the first half and 3-0 in the second half to pull away for a 12-9 win on Saturday.
That pattern didn’t escape the attention of Mustangs coach Paul Cantabene.
“You’ve got to play 60 minutes,” he said. “Those little runs kind of hurt you when you fall asleep for three or four minutes and a team gets three or four goals in that time. Those are big because they’re tough to bounce back from. I think we’ve got to do a little better job facing off. I think we were in a good position to win some faceoffs against Salisbury and we didn’t do it. But it’s always a concern when opponents do that, and we’re working hard to address that.”
No one likes to lose, but Cantabene took solace in the knowledge that the losses have occurred at the hands of the top three teams in the nation with a combined 51-1.
“We’ve learned lessons every game, and we’re just trying to figure this thing out,” he said. “We’ve had four losses to teams that have one loss between them by a combined 11 goals. We’re right there. It’s just that against the top teams in the country, we’ve got to finish and make the plays when you’re in position to make the plays.”