Stevenson Scores in Spurts, Gets Past Cortland
Stevenson attackman Richie Ford challenges Cortland defenseman Brian Winterfeldt during Saturday's 10-8 victory for the second-ranked Mustangs, who wil host No. 1 Tufts on Wednesday.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Stevenson men's lacrosse coach Paul Cantabene said he saw Cortland coach Steve Beville before practice Friday, as the fourth-ranked Red Dragons prepared for their road matchup with the second-ranked Mustangs, owners the second-best offense in Division III.
According to Cantabene, Beville told him, "We won't be holding the ball."
"Then all of a sudden," Cantabene said Saturday, "they're throwing it around for three or four minutes. It's kind of frustrating, because we really want to get out and have fun and play the game, but we know teams are going to do that to beat us and keep it away from our offensive threats. And that's the way it was."
That is how it was for most of what became Stevenson's 10-8 win Saturday over visiting Cortland at Caves Athletic Complex. But for a few brief moments, the Mustangs were able to accomplish what they wanted. Those brief, fast-break, quick-scoring moments decided the outcome and kept Stevenson undefeated at 8-0. Cortland fell to 4-1.
Freshman midfielder Tony Rossi scored three goals, including the tying and go-ahead goals early in the fourth quarter on individual clears and runs to the cage to give Stevenson a 9-8 lead with 9:06 left. Then Mustangs faceoff man Ray Witte won a clean draw and sprinted straight toward the goal and scored from about 15 yards out just six seconds later to provide the final margin with 8:59 remaining.
Stevenson had a similar two-goal spurt earlier in the game. Neal Barthelme finished a two-on-one break off a pass from Richie Ford. Witte won the ensuing faceoff and moved it to Barthelme, who passed to Jimmy Dailey on the crease for a goal to put Stevenson up 5-3 two minutes into the second quarter. The goals were 13 seconds apart.
Aside from that, both teams struggled clearing and both uncharacteristically had more turnovers than ground balls (Stevenson 21 turnovers to 19 ground balls; and Cortland 19 to 17). Cortland even outshot Stevenson, 41-39, but the Mustangs made key plays at the right times.
Stevenson was unable to showcase much of its high-powered offense (nearly 18 goals per game) while Cortland patiently worked the ball around its zone, much to the chagrin of Cantabene, who pleaded for stall warnings from the officials that never came. "When are they going to go to the goal?" he yelled more than once.
"It was never really a game of runs, so to speak," said Dailey, who had two goals and an assist and said he became more of an off-ball player in the game, with Cortland defenseman Brian Winterfeldt face guarding him. "It was kind of one and two goals, here and there. But it was a very close game. Any time you play a team of that caliber, you're going to have to face adversity. We did a very good job of staying the course today when things weren't always going our way."
Rossi, a first-year player from Calvert Hall (Md.) who runs on Stevenson's first midfield with seniors Kyle Moffitt and Sean Calabrese, played an important role.
"Tony is kind of getting into a rhythm," Cantabene said. "Early in the season he was adjusting to lacrosse at the high Division III level and wasn't making the plays we needed him to make. We were kind of just being patient with him. He's finding his way. Today Kyle Moffitt, who is our best middie we think, kind of struggled at times. Tony made some tough plays."
Rossi's tying goal came on a lefty spin move against two defenders. The go-ahead goal, coming in transition down the right side, beat Cortland goaltender Mike Kaminski (13 saves) through the legs.
"I cleared the first one and I guess they said, 'Do it again,'" Rossi said. "I just ran."
"He was able to go by people, so we're happy he finally stepped up to the plate," Cantabene said. "We've been waiting for him to make those kinds of plays."
Stevenson hosts defending national champion Tufts, ranked No. 1 in the country, on Wednesday. It will be the Mustangs' fourth game against a top-10 team in 12 days.
"We're very excited right now," Dailey said, "but at the same time we can't really enjoy it for that much longer, because we have to buckle down and get ready for Tufts on Wednesday."
Beville said Cortland was disappointed and that he thought the Red Dragons, who entered Saturday with the nation's top-ranked defense (2.5 goals allowed per game) would have been able to take advantage of a potentially drained Stevenson team, given the Mustangs' tough stretch of games.
"We thought we'd maybe be able to tire them out a little bit, considering some of the travel they've been doing," Beville said. "They were down at Roanoke on Wednesday. We had a week to get ready, so I was impressed with their game today, gutting this one out. They caught us in transition three or four times, and I thought that was the big key to them pulling away. They're very dangerous. We can't give them those kinds of opportunities. We didn't get it done."
Cantabene said the meeting felt like a playoff game.
"I thought it was a good barometer for us midway into the season to get the big win," he said.
Notes and quotes
With three points Saturday, Dailey tied Eric Schmith for first place on Stevenson's career scoring list with 259 points. Schmith had 122 goals and 137 assists from 1996-99. Richie Ford is third on the scoring list with 255 points after Saturday's game... Witte finished 12-for-21 on faceoffs for Stevenson, but unofficially about a half dozen were clean. Cortland's usual second faceoff man, Justin Battino, struggled against Witte and has an undisclosed injury. "He may be a bit banged up," Beville said. "We'll see." Long-stick midfielder Sean Davern took several faceoffs in the fourth quarter and went 3-fot-7. Chris DeLuca, who entered Saturday 28-for-32 on faceoffs for 87.5 percent, went 5-for-9... Mike Tota led Cortland with a hat trick. DeLuca took seven shots, four on goal, and had one goal and an assist.