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-Owings Mills, MD
The Stevenson Men’s lacrosse team opened their season Saturday night in its brand new Mustang Stadium with an 11-5 win over #17 Haverford. Playing their first game in the state of the art facility under the lights brought about a big-game atmosphere for the seventh ranked Mustangs, who jumped out to a 4-1 lead at the beginning of the second quarter and never looked back.
After ending a promising 2011 season with a stunning loss to Roanoke in the NCAA quarterfinals, it looked like Stevenson’s best shot at its first Division III National Championship had slipped through their grasp. Stevenson graduated eight of their nine All-Americans from 2011, and lost the only returning All-American, sophomore midfielder Tony Rossi (Calvert Hall) for the entire spring season to a broken hand during the Ocean City lacrosse tournament. The entire starting attack including 2011 DIII Player of the Year Jimmy Dailey, Neal Barthelme and Richie Ford are gone. The first line midfield of Kyle Moffitt, Sean Calabrese and faceoff man Ray Witte are also gone. Evan Douglass, 2011 DIII Defensive Player of the Year and Honorable Mention All-American selection Kyle Menendez are gone from the defense as well.
Just wanted to put the impact of the team’s losses in perspective for a minute.
So 2012 begins with a lot of fresh faces, but lets start with those who were contributors last year, leading the way for the Mustangs this season.
Junior attackman Tyler Reid, a transfer from Fairfield before the 2011 season, was the fourth attackman in the rotation last year. He showed why he will be leaned on in 2012 with his veteran performance in Saturday night’s victory. Reid had a solid night, posting two goals, one assist while steadying the hand of the young Stevenson offense. Reid had one play in particular that showed his value to the team.
There was a loose ball just outside the top corner of the restraining box, Reid calmly positioned himself around the defender, scooped and turned with his head up looking to feed as he ran towards the goal. Instead of trying to get a shot off, which was a possibility, he recognized the numbers advantage and redirected the ball to Stephen Banick behind the goal who had a great view of the cutting midfielder Peter Green who caught the pass from Banick in stride and buried the goal. Nicest offensive ball movement all night, and it began with the intelligence of Reid. (This play by Reid is what you call a hockey assist, in lacrosse the man who passes the ball to the assisting player does not get credit on the score sheet, in hockey they do).
Senior goalie Ian Bolland had yet another quietly strong game, allowing only five goals on 30 shots from Haverford, recording 9 saves in a start to finish effort. His best save of the night came just two minutes into the second half, a Haverford attackman managed to squeeze past his man on Bolland’s left hand side of the crease, as Bolland anticipated the shot at point blank range, the Haverford player spotted a teammate across the crease and fed him the ball. In the blink of an eye, Bolland turned 180 degrees and lunged at the quick redirect, just nipping the shot off the top of his stick to save what should have been a sure goal.
One note on Bolland, he needs to cut down on running up field with the ball in his stick, he has a tendency to be reckless in his decision making outside of the crease. At one point he found himself just over the midfield line dodging and faking and nearly lost the ball, which could have resulted in an easy wide open goal for Haverford. Another instance later in the game had Bolland under pressure by two riding Haverford players inside his own restraining box, as a result he attempted to get a pass off which sailed out of bounds, causing a relatively unforced turnover. I would imagine coach Paul Cantabene and the goalies coach will have words with Ian about his eagerness to leave the crease.
Although he is just a sophomore, midfielder Chris Dashiell saw considerable playing time last season, providing the Mustangs with a goal and two assists on Saturday night. His second assist was a nice look to the freshman Banick cutting across the face of the goal, Banick caught the ball as he passed the first pipe, took two steps and stuck a behind the back (BTB in lax lingo) goal with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter to put the game to bed.
Senior midfielders Justin Lea, Nick Rossi, Brian Bodolato and Andrew McCrumb all played well in their new leadership roles for the Mustangs, combining for three goals.
Most impressive of the newcomers for this years’ Mustang squad is the freshman attackman Banick from Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s apparent that he has been handed the reigns of the official ball carrier/playmaker role in the wake of Dailey’s absence. Similar to Dailey in his smallish stature, the maybe 5’10, 145 pound Banick showed impressive footwork, change of direction and overall vision of the field, finishing with two goals and five assists. Cantabene must be thrilled with the way the freshman handled the burden of replacing the most decorated player in program history.
Overall Stevenson looked like a team who lost nine All-Americans, lacking an offensive identity and chemistry between the midfield and attack which was so dominant last season. There are definite pieces to work with in Banick, Reid and Dashiell, and the senior keeper Bolland. Cantabene will continue to tinker with the midfield and attack until he finds the right combination.
Stevenson will be favored in their next three games, all of which are at home. The test is the 11 day stretch starting March 10th when the Mustangs will travel to #11 Lynchburg, play York at home (win), travel to #5 Cortland and finish it off with #3 Tufts in Mustang Stadium on March 20th. Salisbury returns a lot of talent from last season and are favored to win the Capital Athletic Conference and to repeat as National Champions. Stevenson will have its hands full when the rivals collide on April 14 in Owings Mills.
The Mustangs next contest is Saturday Feb. 25 at home against Hampden-Sydney - 1 p.m.