April 16, 2011

Stevenson Shores Up Big Win over Salisbury

by Shawn Nisson | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Ray Witte helped Stevenson win 19 of 30 faceoffs and ignited the Mustangs' third quarter run that blew Saturday's game open after Salisbury pulled within two.

SALISBURY, Md. -- If it seems like there is a lot riding on the line whenever the men's lacrosse teams from Salisbury and Stevenson meet, you're not mistaken. Five out of the series' 10 all-time meetings have come during the NCAA tournament or to decide a Capital Athletic Conference tournament champion.

While Saturday's clash between No. 2 Salisbury and No. 3 Stevenson wasn't an elimination game, it did determine who would become the new No. 1 team in the nation and who would earn the top seed and home field advantage throughout the CAC tournament.

After the Mustangs jumped on the Sea Gulls to take a 5-0 first quarter lead on Saturday they would never look back, as Salisbury never led in the contest and got within two goals just once en route to a 16-12 Stevenson victory.

"Every time we play, there is something huge on the line," said Stevenson head coach Paul Cantabene. "Whether it's the number one spot (in the nation), or for the number one seed in the CAC tournament, that's why this is such a hot rivalry. When other teams play each other a couple times there isn't as much going on, but whenever we play [Salisbury] there is always something on the line."

Cantabene's squad came out firing on all cylinders Saturday, as the Mustangs staked themselves to a 5-1 lead at the end of the first quarter and were never truly threatened by the high-powered Salisbury outfit. Stevenson freshman midfielder Tony Rossi got the Mustangs off to a running start, as the Towson, Md., native beat Salisbury goalie Johnny Rodriguez with a low shot just 48 seconds into the contest.

After that things would only get worse for Salisbury (14-1, 7-1 CAC), as junior Matt Cannone got an open look at the net and beat Stevenson keeper Ian Bolland with a shot to the far side only to see it ring off the post and back out. On Stevenson's (15-1, 8-0 CAC) ensuing possession, Kyle Moffitt would shake loose from his defender and drive towards the net before burying a shot past Rodriguez to double the Mustangs lead. Moffitt's strike would be followed by an unassisted goal from Jimmy Dailey, before Neal Barthelme got on the board off a pass from Moffitt to make it a 4-0 game. Dailey's second strike of the day made it 5-0, before Salisbury's Tony Mendes ended the shutout streak with 1:39 to play in the first quarter.

"The first 10 minutes we couldn't make a play," said Salisbury head coach Jim Berkman. "You give a team like [Stevenson] a lead like that and it's going to be a tough day. We definitely need to get out of the gate a little bit quicker if we see them again this year."

Stevenson continued the surge into the second quarter, as it pumped its lead up to an 8-2 margin with 6:36 remaining in the half. Salisbury wouldn't go away easily, however, as over the final 4:33 of the first half the Gulls tallied three unanswered goals, and by the time Mendes ripped one into the back of the net 87 seconds into the second half Salisbury trailed by just two.

However, over the next minute and a half, Stevenson would put the game away, as the Mustangs found the back of the net on three consecutive shots to push their lead back up to an 11-6 margin. Moffitt started the streak by blowing past two Salisbury defenders and depositing a calm shot over the stick of Rodriguez with 13:07 to play in the third. Stevenson's Ray Witte won the ensuing draw and charged down the field. Two Salisbury defenders crashed into each other as he entered the box, creating a lane for the senior, who made sure to take advantage of the mistake.

Salisbury could never recover. The Sea Gulls got within three goals once in the third quarter and twice more in the fourth, but could never trim the deficit any closer.

"I think we did a good job of executing early on," Cantabene said. "We saw early on that we had some really good match-ups, and we took advantage of them. I thought it was good to get off to a good start, and I think it gave the guys a lot of confidence that they can do some things."

Stevenson's victory ensured the Mustangs home field advantage throughout the CAC tournament, and it also more than likely made them the new No. 1 team in the nation.

"We always like playing at home," Cantabene said. "We don't have to travel or anything, but [in the CAC finals] home field advantage hasn't meant a whole lot. So we have to get ready to play next week at our place, and hopefully we will be mentally sharper and not foul as much."

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