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Fast start gives Stevenson win over No. 7 Cortland

Sophomore Kyle D'Onofrio scored six goals in back-to-back games in the Green Turtle Classic, including four against Cortland in the team's 11-9 victory.

Sophomore Kyle D’Onofrio scored six goals in back-to-back games in the Green Turtle Classic, including four against Cortland in the team’s 11-9 victory.

It still wasn’t the prolific offense we’re used to seeing from the Mustangs, but it was a drastic improvement from what they’ve been doing lately. Stevenson passed the ball with authority and created opportunities with good movement on the offensive end and it led to an 11-9 victory over No. 7 Cortland on the second day of the Green Turtle Classic. It was No. 3 Stevenson’s first victory over a ranked team this year.

Kyle D’Onofrio, who netted two goals against Cabrini on Saturday night, once again led the Mustangs in goals, with four on seven shots. Tony Rossi was heavily involved in the offense and scored twice with three assists.

Though Cortland took advantage of an early extra-man opportunity to gain an early lead, Stevenson took a commanding lead into halftime and build on that throughout the third quarter.

After James Stavrakis gave Cortland their lead, Stevenson scored three-straight. Rossi (Calvert Hall) found D’Onofrio (Fallston) on back-to-back scores and Pat Candon got involved to give the Mustangs a 3-1 lead just seven minutes into action.

D’Onofrio only appeared in 12 games last year and scored only six goals but he matched that total at the Green Turtle Classic and has 11 this season.

“He’s such a great off-ball cutter,” Stevenson head coach Paul Cantabene said. “He makes it really tough on goalies with how he does it. He’s coming along. He’s had a couple of big games. We need him to continue to develop.”

Three minutes into the game, just a minute and a half after Cortland drew first blood, D’Onofrio tied the game after Rossi worked from behind the goal and found the sophomore open on the close left win for a pass. A few minutes later, D’Onofrio took another pass from Rossi as he came around the back of a screen for the open shot attempt. And just a few seconds after that, Candon, who leads the team with goals despite being held without on against Tufts or Cabrini, netted his first of three in the game.

Candon, as he regularly does, worked behind the goal on the cease line, came around the right side and got space after faking multiple passes. He did that twice in the first quarter, the second one put the Mustangs up 5-2 with 1:29 remaining before a short break.

And just before the end of the first half, D’Onofrio gave Stevenson a four-goal lead with a very impressive goal in heavy traffic. While he was ripping his shot, three defenders crashed in on him, but he put it in the net from about eight yards out.

“We haven’t been out to a great start in a little while so it was good to get out and get going early,” Cantabene said. “We wanted to play together and play with confidence early on. I think we did a much better job of that. The guys are learning how to play together a bit.”

Cortland showed why they are one of the nation’s best teams early in the second with two goals by Benjamin Dunlavey and Stavrakis just seconds apart from each other, but Stevenson withstood the punch and used a 4-0 run to take a five-goal lead midway through the third quarter.

With Colin Dabney (Walter Johnson) working near the cage in a man-up situation, he drew an extra defender and pitched the ball down to Rossi and with plenty of space in front of him, stepped in and ripped a shot in for a score. With 2:20 remaining before the break, Stevenson made some good passes behind the cage before Stephen Banick got the ball in front to Candon. The junior attack completed his hat trick with a shot through traffic, splitting two defenders.

quote from CantabeneIn the team’s two losses in five days to Tufts and then Cabrini, that sort of passing and ball movement just was not there and it never allowed Stevenson to get in much of an offensive rhythm. But against Cortland, the team was deliberate with their passes and stayed very active by moving their feet to create shooting lanes.

“We run a motion offense, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing and if you stand still it doesn’t really look good,” Cantabene said. “That’s what we were kind of doing [against Tufts and Cabrini] and the guys just wanted the ball. We had to make them buy in that everybody is going to have to stick together. It doesn’t matter who scores the goals and that’s where I think we’re starting to get a little more buy-ins. We had a little better ball movement, more assists. Things were happening a little better.”

Cortland started the third quarter like they started every quarter in the game, with the first score, as Matt Rokoczy scooped a ground ball in front of the goal and shoveled it into the net. But not long after, Rossi ran behind the goal, passed across the crease to D’Onofrio and on a very harsh angle, the sophomore scored for a fourth time in the game.

Stevenson completed their run and took their five-goal lead when Banick picked up missed shot by one of his teammates in front of the goal and put it in the net.

Cortland gave Stevenson a fight at the end, though. Immediately off a faceoff, Zach Hopps connected with Stavrakis for another goal and as the buzzer was sounding at the end of the third quarter, the two reversed roles and Hopps ripped a long shot to make it a 10-7 game.

Stavrakis then score for a fourth time in the game at the start of the final stanza and Billy Davis. With less than three minutes remaining, Billy Davis made it just a one goal game with a step-up shot. But Stevenson finally got back on the board after an 18-minute scoring drought. Banick was looking to waste some clock on the possession but he made a spin move behind the goal to shed his defender, ran up and scored from the left side to give the Mustangs the little bit of extra cushion they needed for the win.

While only four Mustang players scored in the game, the offense was spread out and 10 players took shots, leaving the Cortland defense guessing where they had to defend throughout the game.

“Playing together as a team, we haven’t really done that this year,” Rossi said. “We’re trying to figure that out, rotating some guys in here and there. We got to start playing together as a team and I think we did that a little more [today] than we have this season. It was good to see and when we do good things like that good things are going to happen for us.”

Stevenson’s issues in the game came from the faceoff X, where they lost 16 of 22 attempts. However, their defense helped make up for it by forcing Cortland to fail on seven clear attempts.

But the murderer’s row schedule doesn’t get much easier moving forward. On Wednesday, Stevenson will face No. 15 Salisbury before back-to-back Saturday clashes with Lynchburg and Albright. Lynchburg is ranked No. 11 at the moment and Albright is receiving votes.

“We just got to be ready,” Rossi said. “[Salisbury] is a similar team to Cortland, a tough, hard-nosed team. They’re coming off some great wins versus Cabrini and Mary Washington. We got to go down to their place and we got to be ready to play. It’s going to be a tough game and we got to come out and play our game.”

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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