Stevenson's Nick Rossi protects the ball from the cross… (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore…)
The Stevenson men's lacrosse team stuck to its usual script of starting fast and cruising to a satisfying finish Wednesday.
The Mustangs outscored visiting Denison, 8-3, in the first half en route to a 14-7 victory in an NCAA Division III tournament quarterfinal game before an announced 902 at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills.
Stevenson improved to 18-4 and will hit the road to tangle with Capital Athletic Conference rival Salisbury in a Final Four matchup on Sunday. Salisbury, the reigning national champion, walloped visiting Cabrini, 14-4, at Sea Gull Stadium in Salisbury on Wednesday night. Salisbury is undefeated this season.
The Mustangs, who entered the game outscoring their opponents, 76-26, in the second quarter, did the same against the Big Red, winning that period by a 4-1 score.
“I think the second quarter has been very big for us,” Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene said. “We always play well in the second quarter, and in the fourth quarter, we seem to play well. I think the guys are just prepared. We do a good job with our adjustments after the first quarter, knowing what the teams are doing and understanding that. I think the guys are always ready.”
Denison entered the quarterfinal feeling confident after knocking off No. 2 seed Lynchburg, 10-5, in the second round last Saturday, but they had no answer for Stevenson's attack. Junior Tyler Reid compiled five goals — including the final three of the second quarter — and one assist. Freshman Stephen Banick scored four times, and sophomore Chris Dashiell chipped in with one goal and two assists.
“I think we're starting to click a lot more,” said Reid, whose 19 career goals in five NCAA tournament contests eclipsed Richie Ford's previous school record of 15 goals in eight tournament games. “Chris Dashiell is in there and he's kind of quarterbacking our offense. He sees everything, and he's setting it up and he's talking to us. Banick's just been making hard plays. He doesn't give up. I think as far as my play goes, I'm just starting to work a little bit better in our offense and work a little bit more. I just think we're all working a lot harder.”
Much as they did in their 12-9 decision against Denison on April 7, the Mustangs started fast. In that regular-season contest, the offense opened the game with five straight goals to enjoy an 8-2 advantage at halftime.
On Wednesday night, Stevenson broke a 2-2 tie with three consecutive goals, including two from Banick. Big Red senior attackman Cory Couture beat senior goalkeeper Ian Bolland (11 saves) with a curl around the left post with 8:29 left in the second quarter to briefly stop the bleeding. But Reid responded with his spree, scoring with 7:03, 3:30 and 1:01 left in the period to give the Mustangs an 8-3 lead at intermission.
Reid's third goal with 3:30 remaining in the first half gave him 17 career goals in five NCAA tournament games. That eclipsed Richie Ford's record of 15 career goals in eight tournament contests.
Unlike that regular-season meeting in which Denison mounted a 5-1 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to make it close, the Big Red was unable to provide a similar rally. Stevenson matched Denison goal-for-goal in the third quarter before enjoying a 4-1 spurt to cement the outcome.
Senior attackman Alex Hardt paced the Big Red with three goals, and Couture contributed two goals and one assist. But sophomore attackman Eddie Vita, who scored three goals in the regular-season meeting and registered three goals and two assists in the upset of Lynchburg, was limited to just one goal by Mustangs junior defenseman Kyle Holechek.
And sophomore Chip Phillips, who ranked 11th in faceoff percentage in Division III (211-of-315), won just 50 percent (11-of-22) against the Stevenson tandem of senior Doug Reidt (10-of-17) and freshman Sam Wyatt (1-of-5).
Denison finished the season with a 15-2 record, but both losses came at the hands of Stevenson.
Salisbury 14, Cabrini 4: Sam Bradman scored the first three goals of the game and coach Jim Berkman got his 400th career victory for the host Sea Gulls (21-0) in an NCAA Division III quarterfinal.
"It has been an honor to coach here," Berkman said, "I feel very fortunate to be here and lead these charges. This brings back a lot of memories of some of the first guys that laid the foundation for the program we have today."
The Cavaliers fell to 17-3. Salisbury led 6-2 at the half before outscoring Cabrini, 8-1, in the third quarter.
Baltimore Sun staff contributed to this article.