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Self-inflicted wounds sink Mustangs vs Tufts

Failed clears and turnovers did the No. 8 Stevenson Mustangs men’s lacrosse team in against No. 2 Tufts on Tuesday night. When playing a powerhouse like the Jumbos, team’s can’t afford to make that many mistakes but Stevenson failed on 10 of their 36 clears, turned the ball over 24 times and eventually started to feel the sting of losing key faceoffs in the second half as they suffered a 16-13 defeat.

Stevenson eventually showed the ability to break Tufts’ 10-man ride, but poor passing lost some of those opportunities and at times they were shooting right into the goalie’s stick from close range.

“We didn’t do a great job finishing our opportunities,” Stevenson head coach Paul Cantabene said. “Tufts did a great job when they got some opportunities to finish inside. When got those opportunities we let some slide by. In their 10 man ride, we got some opportunities in the break and we overthrew a few guys. We’re there to make those plays but in the end, they made those timely plays and went on a couple timely runs.”

With 5:06 remaining in the second quarter Stevenson’s Brandon Watson ripped a shot in from the left wing to make it just a 7-6 Tufts lead, but the Jumbos scored the final two goals of the first half and then continued on to make it an overall 7-1 run into the middle of the third quarter. Once Stevenson was down 13-8, it became impossible to come back with all the clearing and turnover errors they were making.

“We had too many [turnovers],” Cantabene said. “Most of them were in the clearing game and that hurt us. If we eliminate those we’re in better shape, bu we have to do a much better job taking care of the ball.”

The two teams evenly split the first four games, but Tufts turned in a three-goal run and overall a 5-1 run to take a 5-2 lead with 6:41 remaining in the opening quarter. Tufts ride was troubling the Mustangs early in the game, and quick passing left the Jumbo attackmen open for easy in front of the goal for easy scores.

After Danny Murphy was left all alone in close range to the goal following a Mustangs turnover and gave Tufts their fifth goal of the game, Stevenson called a timeout. It seemed to work.

The Mustangs looked more settled down after that brief stoppage and impressively their defense killed a one-minute Tufts EMO after Sean Olhaver was called for an illegal body check. The defense, without top close defender Lito Flanagan for a second straight game, caused a turnover to end the Jumbo’s possession and the offense capitalized on their ensuing possession.

Kyle Karsian, who had five points on two goals with a team-high three assists, wasted time behind the net near the end of the first quarter, before moving off his defender. Then he found JT Thelen at the top of the box, who ripped a shot for his second of a team-high five Stevenson goals to end Tufts run and give the Mustangs some momentum heading into the brief intermission between the first and second quarters.

And the momentum carried into the second quarter. Stevenson made it a four-goal run with scores by Kyle D’Onofrio, Thelen, and Ethan Christensen to open the second quarter. The run was fueled by Stevenson’s effectively being able to break the Jumbo’s ride with long and precise passes. One of those long passes directly led to Thelen’s third goal of the game.

But Tufts got a quick transition goal and got the momentum back as they went on a 3-1 run to end the first half. Zach Richman scored his third goal of the game with 28.5 seconds remaining in the first half to put Tufts back ahead 8-7 as the teams entered halftime. John Cordrey then opened the second half with a goal just 54 seconds in, to push Tufts ahead 9-7.

While Kyle Karsian ripped a shot from the left wing in a man-up situation, Tufts still kept their momentum and scored two quick goals after faceoff victories and another EMO goal to make it four in a row and overall a 7-1 Tufts run going back into the second quarter. Again, it was Cordrey who capped off the run with a goal, making it 13-8 with 6:23 remaining in the third quarter.

“We didn’t have the ball as much as we did in the first half,” Thelen said. “We started losing faceoffs, penalties kept the ball from our possessions.”

And making things even worse for Stevenson, he said: “we lost our confidence in the second half.”

Tufts made a goalkeeper change at halftime, replacing starter Ben Shmerler with Robert Treiber. The two finished with relatively similar star lines, but Treiber had five saves in the third quarter. Unlike Shmerler, who is a left-handed goalie, Treiber’s right-handed hold threw the Stevenson shooters “a bit off” according to Thelen, but he explained that they “just weren’t shooting confidently. We were shooting shots to his chest and right at his stick. We were making him look a lot better than he was.”

Just a few minutes before Cordrey’s goal, Stevenson was gifted a two-man advantage few a few seconds, and had at least a man advantage for 75 seconds, but was unable to capitalize. They did, however, end the third quarter with a pair of goals. The first was by Wade Korvin with 4:44 remaining in the period in a quick transition and then just 36 seconds later, Karsian capitalized on an EMO with a goal from the left side after a series of passing with Christensen.

Stevenson cut the Tufts lead down to 13-10 with Karsian’s goal and looked to be gaining momentum into the final frame. However, Michael Mattson scored the first goal of the fourth quarter to reestablish a four-goal Jumbos lead with 11:15 left in the fourth quarter. The two teams went back-and-forth scoring goals in the fourth quarter, keeping Stevenson from cutting into the lead.

Multiple penalties in the fourth quarter prevented Stevenson from being able to work strong possessions as they were either man-down on offense, having to kill time to get back even or man-down on offense and allowed Tufts to keep the ball for extended periods of time.

“We’re getting better, we’re a good team and we’re competing hard, but we’re making a little bit too many mistakes,” Cantabene said. “On the defensive end, we got to better earlier in games because we’re giving teams some easy goals early and then we have to fight back and that energy takes us out of it.”

After starting the season against six straight ranked opponents, including their last three games being against top 10 opponents in just a five-day span, the Mustangs will have eight days off before opening MAC Commonwealth play at home against Lebanon Valley on Wednesday, March 29 at 7 pm.Stu

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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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