Stevenson defense rounding into form

No. 2 Mustangs have allowed 15 goals in last three games after surrendering 11 in one-goal overtime win against Rochester Institute of Technology on Feb. 27

March 18, 2013|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Stevenson ended last season ranked 10th in Division III in defense, surrendering an average of just 6.1 goals. Opponents are finding it nearly as difficult to dent that unit in 2013.

The Mustangs (6-0) – ranked second in the latest United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll – are allowing just 7.0 goals per game. Since Rochester Institute of Technology posted 11 goals in a one-goal overtime loss on Feb. 27, opposing offenses have scored just 15 times in three contests.

A unit that graduated goalkeeper Ian Bolland (6.28 goals-against average and .579 save percentage) and lost senior defenseman Kyle Fendlay (72 ground balls and 31 caused turnovers) to deal with personal matters hasn’t lost a step with adding freshman Dimitri Pecunes (7.13 goals-against average and .556 save percentage) and sophomore defenseman Callum Robinson (16 ground balls and eight caused turnovers).

“I think we’re just kind of getting back to what we did last year,” coach Paul Cantabene said Monday morning. “With the new rules of the game, you don’t always have your best players on the field defensively, and I think our guys are just starting to figure out the new rules and how to play with them. I think we’re getting Callum Robinson into the flow of our team defense, and he’s understanding more and being in the right place at the right time. I just think they’re playing better as a unit as we’re getting into these bigger games, and they’re starting to see the urgency of playing better. I think they’re doing a good job of getting in there and not giving up as many easy goals. The RIT game was the one game where we played sloppy and gave that team some easy goals, and we usually don’t do that. I think we just got out of our rhythm. I think we’re doing much better, and I think our middies are starting to play much better defense, too.”

Stevenson has long been renowned for its run-and-gun style on offense and its propensity for scoring goals, but the team appears to be developing a reputation on defense, and that’s fine with Cantabene.

“There’s going to be a day when you’re not scoring goals and you’re going to need your defense to help bail you out,” he said. “Some days, we didn’t have that capability. Now we think we can beat anybody on any given day because our defense does show up every day. They get out there and they play hard. I like being known more as a defensive school actually because it helps us win some games, and I think it helps intimidate some opponents sometimes. These guys have bought into what [defensive coordinator] Tim Puls has done for us on the defensive end. I think they’ve done a great job of buying into that every day and understanding the defense and just getting better. So I appreciate their efforts, and hopefully, it’s going to pay off as the season goes on here.”

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