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Inconsistency dooms Stevenson in loss to Tufts

By: Allan Blanks

Tony Rossie was able to rip off seven shots against Tufts, but only two were on target, both were able to be stopped with ease and he committed four turnovers in the game.

Tony Rossie was able to rip off seven shots against Tufts, but only two were on target, both were able to be stopped with ease and he committed four turnovers in the game.

If the showdown between No. 3 Stevenson and No. 1 Tufts was a preview of the Division III men’s lacrosse national championship, the Mustangs cannot be thrilled but at the very least they were able to learn what they can expect in the future. From the onset, Stevenson created ample scoring opportunities but failed to generate goals as they missed 36 shots on target and lost, 18-12.

Though Colin Dabney (Walter Johnson) led Stevenson with three goals, the Jumbos’ saw both John Uppgren and Zach Richman net hat tricks.

“We didn’t do a good job on them (Uppgren and Richman),” Stevenson head coach Paul Cantabene said. “We didn’t understand what we needed to do and we made a lot of mistakes off the ball to give them easy goals. We’ll get better and we’ll learn from it.”

Uppgren led all scorers with five goals, while Richman followed with four.

During the contest, seven Mustangs registered goals and assists. Stevenson’s Jonathan Thelen, Matt Tompkins and Stephen Banick posted two goals apiece. Pat Candon led the team with a pair of helpers while six other Stevenson players finished with an assist.

Defensively, the Mustangs failed to contain Tufts’ offense. Throughout the match-up, the Jumbos’ dodged the Stevenson defense and found themselves very close to the net time and time again. The barrage of close-range shots took its toll on Stevenson netminder Ben Richards (Bel Air), in a span of 56 minutes. Richards finished with nine saves before teammate Kevin Cain closed out the game.

The Mustangs out-shot the Jumbos 48-45, however, the majority of Stevenson’s shots were off-balanced and contested from distance.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Cantabene said. “That’s one of our weaknesses this year. We’re not shooting the ball with the same clip as we need to and we’re letting teams off the hook. Against a good team like Tufts, who shoots the ball better than we do, we have to capitalize. I thought we had good opportunities but we struggled.”

In the opening stanza, the Mustangs looked and performed like a championship contender. Offensively, Stevenson moved the ball with ease and completed pinpoint passes. Attacking early and often, senior midfielders Toni Rossi (Calvert Hall) and Billy Burgoyne squared up twice and narrowly missed their chances to put the Mustangs ahead.

Minutes later, Candon had his opportunity to put Stevenson on the board but his shot attempted sailed over the crossbar.

When the Mustangs weren’t off-target, they were stymied by Tufts’ goalie Alex Salazar. For the first period, Salazar recorded four saves and registered 19 for the contest. With 7:44 left in the opening quarter, the Jumbos’ Peter Gill dodged through the defense and ripped a shot past Richards to put Tufts ahead, 1-0. Eleven seconds later, sophomore midfielder Jake Gillepspie dodges his way around the Mustangs defense and nailed a laser shot to increase his team’s lead to 2-0.

As the momentum started to sway toward Tufts, Candon found Dabney, who spotted up and delivered a powerful shot beyond the reach of Salazar.

“Colin (Dabney) is playing well but he needs to be most consistent,” Cantabene said.

He did lead the team with three goals but took six on goal.

In the first period, Stevenson frustrated Tufts by anticipating their passing attack and forcing turnovers. Through the first 15 minutes, Stevenson caused nine turnovers and held the top-ranked Jumbos to only two goals.

But after the first quarter, the Jumbos made critical adjustments and it helped draw six penalties for 4:30 of man-down time for Stevenson. In the game, Stevenson was down a player for 9:30 on 12 penalties.

Tufts was able to double-team the Stevenson ball-carriers and forced erratic passes. They then established themselves physically and pressured the Mustangs into turnovers. In the second period, Stevenson committed six turnovers and was out-hustled 15-8 on ground balls.

For Stevenson to have success, it was crucial for the offense to have time and use space. Tufts effectively took those two elements away and contained the attack.

Offensively, the Jumbos completed shorter passes and dodged their way into Mustang territory. This quicker approach reduced their turnovers from nine to only four and provided more shots on goal. Tufts reduced their turnovers from nine to four as well and were ripping off way more shots.

With 11:26 remaining in the second quarter, Jumbos’ Austin Carbone lofted a pass to Ben Andreycak, who leaped into the air and delivered a line-drive beyond the reach of Richards.

Down 3-1, Stevenson had two consecutive series that rendered two straight-goals. Like a well-oiled machine, Stevenson’s ball movement was precise and opened scoring lanes for Thelen and Tompkins to attack.

“I think we did a lot of things great,” Cantabene said. “We hurt ourselves. We did two of three things good and three or four things bad. We have to be more consistent.”

The two goals tied the game at 3-3 at the 9:12 mark in the second half, but Tufts ended the half on a 6-0 run, including three goals in the final minute to take a commanding 9-3 lead into the break.

At the start of the second half, Stevenson was able to score first when Taylor Morgan dodged through the Tufts defense and nailed a thunderous goal, but the team was in no position to trade goals and that is what happened. Both offenses close the game with nine second-half goals. Stevenson made the final score look closer than the game was with three man-up goals in the final 3:19.

“We really need to be more consistent in these big games,” Cantabene said. “We’re not doing that right now and we’re got to do better.”

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Allan Blanks

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