Mustang lax squads advance to MAC championship

Stevenson women will face No. 1 York, men will face No. 4 Eastern in MAC championship games
SU Mens lax waves goodbye to Messiah
SU Men’s lax waves goodbye to Messiah
Emma Hartman

Stevenson’s lacrosse teams had one thing in mind last weekend — survive and advance to the MAC championship. Both teams faced the Falcons of Messiah University, one looking for redemption and one looking to take care of business at home.

Both succeeded and will play for MAC titles Saturday.

The men, seeded No. 2, will host No. 4 Eastern in the MAC championship game Saturday at 7 p.m. at Mustang Stadium. You can stream it here.

The women’s focus will shift to rematch with No. 1 seed York College, as the Mustangs seek their first MAC (Middle Atlantic Conference) championship win since 2014. That game begins Saturday at 1 p.m. and can be streamed here.

Women take down Messiah 10-9

Women’s lacrosse got the action started as they played first Wednesday. The last time these two teams faced off, Messiah got the best of Stevenson defeating them 15-12 in a high offensive battle.

However, it was the Mustangs who got the last laugh in this latest round of this classic conference battle defeating Messiah 10-9 in this MAC semifinal classic.

The Mustangs look to run off their big win against Messiah to advance to the MAC final (Sabina Moran)

Senior Kara Yarusso said the key aspect to their victory was “setting the tempo of the game offensively and playing tough defense.”

Yarusso got the offense started, scoring the game’s first goal about two minutes into the game. Back and forth scoring ensued with Yarusso and first-year Ava Treakle scoring for Stevenson in a 3-3 first quarter tie.

Neither team allowed a goal until Messiah squeaked one by to give the Falcons the 4-3 lead, but that lead did not last long.

Stevenson tallied three more prior to halftime as Treakle, Yarusso and graduate student Erin Steinberg all added one apiece to give the Stangs’ a 6-4 lead at the halfway point.

The offense kept rolling into the second half as Steinberg added one more to a 7-4 game with 12:30 to go in the third.

Graduate student Sophia Murray praised the Mustangs’ poise.

“The composure we had on the field was unmatched, and at every mistake and every success we had each other’s backs and kept pushing forward no matter what,” Murray said.

Messiah put Stevenson’s composure to the test, scoring four unanswered goals to take an 8-7 lead with 2:42 left to go in the third.

Messiah held onto that lead to go into the fourth, but Stevenson rallied thanks to Steinberg, Murray and Treakle. Their goals put the Mustangs on top 10-8 with 5:59 in the game.

The Falcons scored with 3:09 to go in the game but the Stevenson defense held on for the win to give the women’s lacrosse squad a redemption win.

Now it’s upward and onward to York and MAC title game.

“With York, all we really need is the same mindset and execution we faced Messiah with,” Murray said. “The only thing that really hurt us against York was the execution of our shots, which is an easy fix.”

Murray feels confident that the team has the pieces to the puzzle. “We already have all the pieces we need which was demonstrated in our win against Messiah, now it’s just continuing that against York,” she said.

Yarusso feels the tempo of the game and how they will try to control it will be the name of the game.

“We are focusing on similar aspects to prepare for York,” Yarusso said. “We need to go in with confidence and stay composed in order to get this win. The biggest thing is going to be dominating the draw and setting the tempo.”

Overall, the team is excited to be competing in the championship game to try to win the title for the first time since 2014.

“It feels awesome to be competing in the MAC championship,” Murray said. “Once playoffs start, every day can be your last, which makes it that much more important. At this point we are all playing for each other which I think makes this part of the season such a special time.”

Yarusso has been to the MAC championship game with the Mustangs

“Competing in the MAC championship is super exciting,” she said. “I’ve felt like I’ve been playing with these girls for forever now, and I can’t believe it’s only been a year. They’re all such wonderful, hard-working people, and it makes me so happy to be able to contribute to the path that’s led us all to this championship. The dedication and work this team have put in for the past year is what’s brought us to this championship, and we’re going to make every bit count.”

Men slash Messiah 26-19

Now, if you are a fan of high scoring offensive craziness, Mustang Stadium is where you should have been for the men’s MAC semifinal rematch with the Falcons. Stevenson handled Messiah late in the regular season defeating them 22-9.

Men’s lacrosse knew Messiah was going to come back seeking redemption. However Stevenson held on to survive 26-19 in a high-scoring and dramatic MAC semifinal game.

SU Men’s lax waves goodbye to Messiah (Emma Hartman)

Juniors Grant Zick and Jack Scaliti felt the team’s key aspect to winning the game was for the team to step up and also to play for the seniors.

“I think a key aspect for getting the win against Messiah was playing hard for our seniors,” Zick said. “It was a point of emphasis that from this point on it is win or go home so we were incredibly motivated to play hard and get the win so that we can play more lacrosse and get more time with the seniors that have done so much for this program.”

“I think a big key to winning the game was guys stepping up,” Scaliti said. “Obviously, we didn’t expect Hap to go down, but Brad (Bennett) and Connor (Dunay) stepped up when we needed them most. Also, we are getting a ton of production out of our first-year players like Darrell (Curtis), Gavin (Gossen), and Hunter (Bryant).”

Senior face-off Conor Halpin went down late in the first quarter after the Mustangs took an 4-0 advantage, thanks to two from Curtis and one each from Bryant and senior Dillion Linhardt.

It was a tag team of first year face-offs Bradley Bennett and Connor Dunay to step up and win faceoffs for Stevenson and they continued to lead at the end of the first 5-2 as Zick joined the scoring with eight seconds left in the quarter.

Linhardt, Curtis and junior Max Racich all score to start the second to bring the score to 8-2 with 10:46 to go in the second. Messiah cut into the Stangs’ lead to make it an 8-3.

SU Men’s lax celebrates after scoring (Emma Hartman)

However, Scaliti, Bryant, senior Andrew Searing all added one along with Gossen’s two to give the Mustangs a 13-3 lead at the half.

Defense was put to the test in the third quarter as it seems it was a tale of two stories. The first of half of the third showed the Mustangs offensive dominance and go on a 6-2 run in the first nine minutes of the quarter to give Stevenson a 19-5 advantage.

“Defensively we knew that we could hold them 6 (versus) 6,” senior Jack Seals said. “At times we were playing a man down for what it felt like a whole quarter giving them momentum during the third quarter.”

The Mustangs defense survived Messiah’s 7-0 run, four of which were man up goals. This cut their lead down to seven to make it a 19-12 game by the end of third.

The first-year players from California, Curtis and Gossen, got Stevenson back on track scoring one goal each, to bring the lead back to a 21-12 game.

Messiah continued to crawl back into the game as they scored two more to cut the margin back down to seven, 21-14 with 10:52 to go in the game.

Gossen, Scaliti and Bennett helped Stevenson to bring the lead back to a 10-point game to make it a 24-14 lead with 6:14 left.

The Falcons had one more last gasp of offensive juice, go on a 5-0 run and cut the margin back to five to make it a 24-19 game, of which would be the last time Messiah scores.

Zick and Racich scored the final two goals to slay the Falcons one more time this season and send them off to the road of elimination.

The team now focuses on the MAC championship game. Their fourth appearance in five years, seeking their first win since 2019. In this latest installment, it will be No. 4 seed Eastern University as the Eagles stunned top-seeded York Wednesday 11-10 in a semifinal thriller.

Seals, Scaliti and Zick all are familiar with playing in the MAC Championship game as all three have played in multiple championship games. The team is preparing to make the adjustments to bring back the MAC title to Stevenson.

SU men’s lacrosse huddles after scoring (Ava Treakle)

“It will be awesome to host a MAC championship game at home,” Seals said. “Through my time here I have been lucky enough to play in two previous MAC tournaments at home and they are always intense fun games with a loud large crowd, I am happy we are able to have the tournament back at Mustang Stadium.”

Scaliti says team trust is the biggest aspect to winning the MAC final.

“We are going to prepare for this game as we would any other,” Scaliti said. “We will watch lots of film, have two intense practices, and trust the game plan that the coaches implement.”

Zick says the team is ready to leave it all on the field.

“In preparation for the game against Eastern we will keep things pretty similar to what we have been doing all year, but the intensity will be ramped up,” Zick said. “We will work to fine tune the things that need to be worked on so that we can be at our best come Saturday.”


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About the Contributors
Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson, Sports Digital Reporter
Ben is a senior communication studies major with a history minor. He is from Hanover, Pennsylvania. After college he hopes to pursue a career in journalism or sports journalism. Ben enjoys covering sports and is the sports digital reporter for the Villager.
Emma Hartman
Emma Hartman, Sports Photographer
Emma is a junior communication studies major with a minor in event planning. Outside of taking photos for The Villager, Emma also works for Stevenson Athletic Communications, NAVY Athletic Communications and is the social media manager for the Stevenson men's ice hockey team. Emma's goal after graduation is to do social media for a professional sports team.
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