Review & preview: Stevenson men's lacrosse

A look at the 2014 season for the Mustangs and a glimpse into 2015

June 18, 2014|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Here is the sixth installment of a series that checks in with the eight Division III programs in the state to give a glimpse into the past and the future. Teams are scheduled to appear according to the chronological order in which their seasons ended. Tuesday’s visit was with Goucher. Wednesday’s visit is with Stevenson.

REVIEW

The good: According to LaxPower.com, the Mustangs played the 21st-toughest schedule in the nation, which was the same ranking as their 2013 schedule. In both years, the team played against seven opponents in the regular season that qualified for the NCAA tournament, but this past spring’s schedule included a five-game stretch in 10 days in which the squad defeated four perennial contenders in Roanoke, eventual 2014 national champion Tufts, Nazareth and SUNY-Cortland.

“I think we tested them, especially in that five-game stretch where we played five excellent teams in 10 days – Tufts, Nazareth, Cortland, Roanoke,” coach Paul Cantabene said. “I thought we did a great job of playing that schedule, and we’re going to play it again next year. … I think it’s even tougher now than a year ago. We like who we play, we like those tough games, and we want to play the best teams week in and week out. So we really test our guys to go out there and perform.”

**Stevenson’s 10th-ranked offense at 14.5 goals per game was buoyed by the resurgence of the team’s extra-man unit. The man-up offense raised its success rate of 30.9 percent (43-of-139) in 2013 to 44.6 percent (62-of-139) in 2014, which ranked as the eighth-most potent unit in the country. After no player reached double digits in extra-man goals in 2013, four players did this past spring. Cantabene credited the cohesion among the players on the extra-man unit for their success.

“I think we shot the ball better on EMOs, but I think most of it was that the chemistry on EMOs was much better this year,” he said. “We moved the ball very well, and it didn’t matter who scored goals for us. The guys just did a great job of reading the defense and moving the ball to the guy who had the best shot. Chemistry is really what you look for on your man-up. You can have all of the greatest shooters in the world, but you’re not going to score a lot of goals if they don’t get along. But these guys really got along.”

**The Mustangs’ reliance on young players was well-founded. Freshman attackman Edward McLoughlin made six starts and recorded four goals and one assist before giving way to freshman Tyler Fuhrman, who started 14 games and posted 20 goals and nine assists. Freshman midfielder Kyle D’Onofrio registered six goals and three assists, and sophomore midfielders Joe Balestrieri (22 G, 4 A) and Alex Hardwick (8 G, 1 A) also made contributions. Their emergence was a positive sign for Cantabene.

“I think we have a really bright future with some of these younger guys who got some quality minutes,” he said. “So we’re really happy with how the younger guys developed over the course of the year and learned our culture and what we need to do to get better every day.”

The bad: Stevenson’s bid to join Hobart, Middlebury, Nazareth and Salisbury as the only programs to capture back-to-back NCAA titles fell short as the 2013 national champion was turned back by Washington College, 12-11, on May 14 in the tournament quarterfinals. It was a sudden and disappointing finish for the team and re-emphasized to Cantabene the difficulty of trying to repeat.

“It’s tough to be the defending champion,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure, and you’ve got to realize that as the defending champion, you get everybody’s best games every day, and I think at times we really struggled with that and playing with that. But I thought as the year went on, we did a great job and got better with it. Unfortunately, things didn’t go our way at the end of the year, but we still had a great year and played really well. We lost to a very good Washington College team, which had an outstanding year. We just didn’t make enough plays. We’ve got to regroup and get refocused.”

**Although the offense fared well nationally, its shooting percentage took a tumble. After converting 28.5 percent (373-of-1,307) of its shots to rank 77th among 209 programs in Division III in 2013, the unit dropped to 24.8 percent (319-of-1,284) and the 149th ranking in the country. Cantabene said the team must be more opportunistic.

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