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The fourth ranked Stevenson men’s lacrosse team held a 9-3 lead over top ranked Salisbury with one minute left in the third quarter Saturday night at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills, MD. Over the last 16 minutes of the game Salisbury went on an 8-1 run, scoring in the final seconds of the game to complete an impressive comeback against their Capital Athletic Conference rivals.
With under a minute left in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 10, Stevenson attackman Tyler Reid was double teamed behind the Salisbury goal. Attempting to split the double team to make a run at scoring the go-ahead goal, Reid was stripped of the ball, giving Salisbury possession. Sea Gulls midfielder Ryan Clarke dodged towards goal with under 30 seconds remaining. As the slide came to double team Clarke, he completed a high-risk behind the back pass to teammate Matt Cannone who spun around on the crease and put a shot past Stevenson goalkeeper Ian Bolland with just 11 seconds remaining.
To put it modestly, these two teams strongly dislike each other. They are two of the best programs in Division III lacrosse and they play in the same conference. Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene chose to make the switch to the CAC in 2007, with the intent of taking on Salisbury for conference supremacy. The intensity continued Saturday night as both teams were trash talking, celebrating and delivering punishing blows. In the end 18 penalties were administered by the officiating crew, including four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Let’s just say the game did not disappoint from an entertainment perspective.
Salisbury led 1-0 at the end of the first quarter, setting the tone with physical pressure defense from their athletic long poles and defensive midfielders. Sea Gulls senior attackman Tony Mendes scored the lone goal of the first quarter on a spectacular no-look shot from goal line extended, which Bolland and the Stevenson defense did not see coming.
Stevenson would score four unanswered goals in the second quarter seizing the lead 4-1, heading into half time. Stevenson became the aggressor in the second period, becoming more physical on ground balls and attacking the Salisbury defense with precision passing and a barrage of good shots. Freshmen attackmen Pat Candon and Stephen Banick helped to create the four goal run with their unselfish passing, each finding Chris Dashiell for a goal in the second quarter.
As anticipated, Salisbury opened the second half with a chip on their shoulder. Cannone and midfielder Sam Bradman opened up the half with goals just two minutes apart, bringing the score to 4-3.
Stevenson would once again respond with authority, rattling off five straight unanswered goals. Sophomore defensemen Warren Pumphrey(St. Mary’s) was the catalyst for the five goal outburst. The speedy long pole pushed fast breaks on two separate occasions, making excellent passes to cutting teammates. On one break he found midfielder Peter Green who assisted Banick. The other was a pinpoint assist to the streaking Banick on the crease. Stevenson’s transition offense had Salisbury reeling as the lead was increased to 9-3.
The Sea Gulls are ranked number one for a reason and they showed why, responding again with two goals in the last 45 seconds of the third quarter to bring the score to 9-5.
With their offensive firepower Salisbury never felt that the game was out of reach. Tony Mendes scored 15 seconds into the fourth quarter to cut the Stevenson lead to 9-6. Two consecutive goals from Clarke really put the momentum into the Sea Gulls hands as the score was brought to 9-8 with seven minutes left in the game.
Senior midfielder Nick Rossi(Towson) led the Mustangs with three goals. He scored Stevenson’s lone fourth quarter goal with 5:28 left to give the Mustangs a 10-8 advantage. Rossi took a vicious high hit after the goal and would not return to the game. With a two goal lead and a two minute penalty enforced on the high hit, it looked as if Stevenson was again in control.
The senior Bolland made an extraordinary save around the four minute mark when he was caught running back to the goal as Mendes tried to stuff one by him. Bolland did not bite on the stick fake and deflected the would be goal out of bounds. The save seemed to give Stevenson even more momentum heading into the final minutes.
But the senior attackmen Cannone and Mendes validated their preseason All-American selections in crunch time. Cannone scored in a 5 on 5 situation with 3:20 left to make it 10-9. Mendes then knotted the game at 10 after losing his defenseman on a shifty dodge with 3 minutes left. And of course, Cannone finished the game with his goal essentially as time was running off the clock.
Stevenson lost nearly its entire starting lineup from 2011, while Salisbury returned the majority of its starters and top point scorers. The Mustangs were not supposed to give Salisbury such a tight run for their money, but Cantabene proved that he is an elite recruiter in DIII, reloading on the fly and nearly knocking off the top ranked Sea Gulls. He won’t be pleased with anything short of a win, but Cantabene and his squad will most likely have another shot at Salisbury in the CAC playoffs which begin April 25. The two powerhouses have met in the CAC championship game each of the last four years.
Stevenson will finish up it’s regular season on Wednesday April 18, hosting conference opponent Frostburg State at 7 p.m.
Salisbury (15-0, 7-0 CAC) vs. SCORE BY PERIOD 1 2 3 4 Tot Stevenson (12-3, 6-1 CAC) ------------------------------------- Date: Apr 14, 2012 Attendance: 2184 Salisbury........... 1 0 4 6 - 11 Weather: Cloudy, 77 degrees Stevenson........... 0 4 5 1 - 10 Salisbury SCORING: GOALS: Matt Cannone 4; Tony Mendes 4; Ryan Clarke 2; Sam Bradman 1. ASSISTS: Ryan Clarke 2; Matt Cannone 1; Evan Hockel 1; Erik Krum 1. Stevenson SCORING: GOALS: Nick Rossi 3; Stephen Banick 2; Chris Dashiell 2; Tyler Reid 1; Billy Burgoyne 1; Michael Crowe 1. ASSISTS: Stephen Banick 3; Pat Candon 1; Peter Green 1; Warren Pumphrey 1.