follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelLHuber
The Stevenson men’s lacrosse team got their first marquis win of the 2012 season Tuesday night in Owings Mills, with a convincing victory over the second ranked Tufts Jumbos, 9-5.
After a tough loss Saturday to #3 Cortland, Stevenson was eager to prove that they belong among the elite teams in Division III. From the opening whistle, Mustangs head coach Paul Cantabene had his team ready to play, in an effort to avenge a 14-13 loss to Tufts last March.
With 1:08 left in the second quarter Tufts midfielder Ben Saperstein scored to cut the Stevenson lead to 5-4. Just as it looked like the Jumbos had gained the momentum heading into half time, Stevenson won possession on the ensuing face off, calling a timeout with 23 seconds left to play in the half. Whatever Cantabene had drawn up, clearly did not come to fruition. Rather, Mustangs attackman Stephen Banick was slung to the ground at goal line extended with 9 seconds and counting. Banick maintained his footing and found teammate Chris Dashiell behind the net. Dashiell, amid the confusion immediately redirected a pass in front of goal, finding senior attackman Brian Badolato open on the crease to score as time ran off the clock. Not only was this a pivotal momentum swing in the game, it exemplified Stevenson’s non-stop hustle despite their lack of experience.
The Mustangs attack unit is young and undersized. Even the most veteran of the starting three, sophomore Chris Dashiell is listed at 5’9 151 lbs. His line mates, freshman Stephen Banick(5’10, 145) and Pat Candon(5’6, 155) are no more physically imposing. Defensemen may scoff at the lineup while scouting, but once on the field the trio prove their weight in points. Banick, Dashiell and Candon are one, two, three on the point sheet for Stevenson this season, proving that speed and agility in the game of lacrosse are indeed deadly.
Stevenson came out of the gate in the second half adding to their lead on a nice hesitation move by freshman midfielder Michael Crowe, who froze his defender, ran by him and stuck a shot near post, fitting the ball into a narrow hole off the goalie’s left shoulder. Giving the Mustangs a 7-4 advantage.
Tufts cut the lead to 7-5 with an outstanding solo effort from freshman attackman Cole Bailey, who picked up a loose ball behind the goal, sprinted around the crease and dove forward, flipping an underhand shot past Stevenson goalkeeper Ian Bolland.
Tufts is playing this season without their highest returning scorer, senior Sean Kirwan who is in a walking boot. The absence of Kirwan’s 66 goals from last season has the Jumbos looking for another offensive leader. In his place senior midfielder Kevin McCormick is not afraid to shoot, tallying a time high eight shots Tuesday night, though managing only one goal.
Part of the ineptitude for Tufts was the top-notch play of Stevenson’s Ian Bolland. The senior leader for the Mustangs had 11 saves on the night, but his most critical stop came with 2:45 left in the third quarter. Tufts was moving the ball around nicely on offense, when McCormick popped free about five yards directly in front of Bolland, caught a pass and attempted to stuff a shot past Bolland offside high. Instead of cutting the deficit to 8-6, Bolland’s acrobatic save gave the Mustangs and their home crowd a boost as they carried a three goal lead into the fourth quarter.
In front of Bolland, Stevenson’s three starting defensemen played a quality game, consistently disrupting shots and forcing the Tufts attackmen away from goal. The defense is lead by local juniors Parker Bratton(McDonogh) and Kyle Holochek(Loyola-Blakefield), with sophomore understudy Warren Pumphrey rounding out the group. The unit also has surprisingly sound stick skills, making Stevenson’s clearing game boarder-line fun to watch.
Coach Cantabene and the Mustangs will have two and a half weeks to prepare for their next ranked opponent, #9 Denison at home on April 7. Until then, a three game conference road trip will be on the menu, with games at Mary Washington, Wesley, and Hood. Followed up by a home game versus St. Mary’s on April 4.
The Mustangs made huge strides Tuesday night, finding offensive production despite the loss of attackman Tyler Reid to injury. Now this young, talented group will have to solidify it’s identity with under a month to go before their showdown with #1 Salisbury on April 14.