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Salisbury tops Mustangs, 12-4 in NCAA Tournament

By: Allan Blanks

Nathan Blondino scored four goals in the game, matching the entire offensive output of the Mustangs.

Nathan Blondino scored four goals in the game, matching the entire offensive output of the Mustangs.

The second round matchup between Stevenson and Salisbury was expected but nobody could have anticipated the ridiculous circumstances the game was played under. The game was delayed for three hours after traffic prevented the Seagulls from making it to Mustang Stadium until just minutes before nine o’clock. Then, probably because the light system is on a timer that was not reset as the game time was adjusted, they shut off in the third period. It was a strange situation, weird atmosphere and led to an unexpected Salisbury blowout of the No. 7 Mustangs, 12-4.

“I thought Salisbury played very well,” Stevenson head coach Paul Cantabene said. “They did a great job, they out-hustled us, out-toughed us and we got to learn from this. In some of our big games this year, we got out-toughed and it’s not because of a lack of effort, we just didn’t execute as much.”

Before the start of competition, an overturned tractor trailer on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, prevented Salisbury from arriving to Mustang Stadium for the intended 7:00pm matchup. In response, the second round NCAA contest was pushed back to 10:00pm.

“The delay had no impact on our play,” Cantabene said. “We don’t make any excuses. We just didn’t play as well as they (Salisbury) did.”

Sixty minutes of toughness and execution has been the Mustangs’ calling card. Stevenson’s precise ball movement, pinpoint shooting and physical play was inconsistent. Contrary to Stevenson, Salisbury established their physicality and consistently found the back of the net. The Sea Gulls shot 12-for-32, while their defense forced 18 turnovers en route to the victory over the Mustangs.

“This was a big win and impressive effort by our boys tonight,” Salisbury University head coach Jack Burkman said. “I thought that we played really composed tonight, and did a great job of attacking them in the right places, and taking advantage of what our defense gave us tonight.”

Salisbury’s Nathan Blondino (St. Mary’s Ryken) led all scorers with four goals, followed by teammate Thomas Cirillo with three scores and James Burton with two.

Stevenson’s Tony Rossi (Calvert Hall) scored one goal and extended his scoring streak to four games.

“Tony (Rossi) is a great shooter and does a lot of great things,” Cantabene said. “He didn’t play to the level that need him [to play] tonight. None of our middies did [play to desired level]. Tony is a great player, and he’ll have a great career at the next level.”

Mustangs midfielders’ Matt Tompkins, Billy Burgoyne and Alex Hardwick (Loyola) posted one goal apiece.

In terms of effort, both Salisbury and Stevenson were evenly matched. However, execution is what separated the Sea Gulls from the Mustangs.

The opening draw control featured Stevenson’s Justin Buonomo against Salisbury’s Cameron Maples. For the season, Buonomo has won 83-percent of his faceoffs, while Maples retrieved 62-percent. In the contest, the Mustangs won on draw controls 12-­8.

Maples won the initial faceoff and the Sea Gulls offense went straight to work. In the early goings, Salisbury displayed quick ball movement and attempted to get within close range. Stevenson defender Callum Robinson tracked down ball carriers, circled the goal post and kept the Sea Gulls on the outside away from close range.

After Blondino was forced to commit a low percentage shot from distance, Burton dodged through the Stevenson defense and ripped a shot for goal with 13:25 left in the opening stanza.

Buonomo won the ensuing draw control and cleared the ball to teammate Colin Dabney (Walter Johnson). Dabney navigated through Salisbury territory and found Rossi who blasted a shot beyond the reach of Connor Anderson. Anderson entered the contest with a 72-save percentage. Anderson closed the matchup saving 75-percent of shot attempts.

Locked 1­-1, the Mustangs’ Sam Wyatt took on Maples for the next faceoff. Wyatt won 72-percent of his draw controls but was unable to gain possession from Maples. During this series, Salisbury and Stevenson traded shots on goal but the Sea Gulls found the back of the net first. Sophomore attackman Carson Kalama (Bel Air) was fed in transition by teammate Sean Fitzgerald (Arundel). Kalma capitalized on an off balanced Stevenson defense and dodged his way to close range for the score.

Defensively, Taylor Morgan (Georgetown Prep) provided coverage to Kalama. Kalama led the Sea Gulls with 52 goals on the season and posted three goals per contest. Morgan held Kalama to one goal and one assists.

Maples won two straight faceoffs and swayed the momentum towards the Sea Gulls. In spite of losing the draw controls, Stevenson generated turnovers and rewarded themselves with scoring opportunities in which they could not cash in. The Mustangs offense stalled with mishandled passes and misfired shots.

While Stevenson failed to convert goals, Salisbury looked to increase their 2­-1 cushion. Cirrillo took advantage of two consecutive man-­up chances and scored back­-to-­back goals which gave the Sea Gulls a 4-­1 first period lead.

In the second period, Buonomo was Stevenson’s weapon of choice, and won all three faceoffs against Maple. Yet, the Sea Gulls defense held the Mustangs scoreless.

“Connor (Anderson) is a good position goalie, but he has good size,” Burkman said. “He’s got good hands, plays his angles well, and he has a good stick; he makes it a little more difficult to shoot.”

The Mustangs were out-shot Salisbury 10­-6 in the period. Stevenson has been shutout in three periods this season. This is the second time this year, that the Sea Gulls left the Mustangs scoreless for a period. Senior defender’s Austin Kemp (Centennial) and Knute Kraus have helped Salisbury’s defense to dominate opposing offenses. During the Sea Gulls 10-game winning streak, the defense has relinquished an average of four goals per game.

Fitzgerald and teammate Mike Kane increased Salisbury’s lead by five. At intermission, the Sea Gulls led the Mustangs 6-­1.

At 11:00pm, the lights at Mustang Stadium are programmed to shut down. For 10 minutes, the two local rivals waited in total darkness, while the lights warmed themselves up. Immediately after the delay, Boldino dodged his way inside and powered a shot for goal at close range.

Down 7-­1, Stevenson needed a big play to close the gap. Precise ball movement and steady hands allowed junior midfielder Dylan Muti to find Hardwick for his first and only goal of the contest.

The Mustangs defense sensed the game slipping away and began to increase their pressure. The added aggression yielded penalties instead of turnovers. Burton and Cirillo scored on back-­to-­back man­-up opportunities to put the Sea Gulls ahead 9­-2.

“They (Stevenson) gave a good effort, but it was directed the wrong way,” Cantabene said. “At times they got frustrated, made some poor plays, and we didn’t work as well together. It’s a difference between playing tough and playing well together. We didn’t do both of those together and that was the big difference.”

The Mustangs were out-shot 11­5 in the third period. However, Stevenson won the groundball battle 13­10. After a flurry of missed shots, Tompkins picked up a ground ball and nailed a tough shot past the reach of Anderson. The Mustangs were out-shot 32-­29 for the game and the Sea Gulls were out hustled 36­-27 for ground balls.

In the final stanza, Salisbury and Stevenson traded goals. Blondino netted first, followed by Burgoyne and Blondino closed the scoring exchange with his fourth goal of the game. Blondino’s hat trick is the second in four matchups. Stevenson goalie Connor Skeen (Towson) finished the game with 10 saves.

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