Stevenson men’s lacrosse has opened up the 2017 season again on the radar as one of the top teams in the country.
The Mustangs came into the season nationally ranked No. 12 and favored to win the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Commonwealth. Since the opening of the season, the team’s performance has carried them up to the seventh spot in the national rankings.
The team’s schedule includes nationally ranked teams Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Gettysburg, Ohio Wesleyan, Salisbury, York, Lynchburg and Tufts.
Junior long-stick midfielder Austin Howard said, “We gotta be ready for every game. We can’t ever take practice for granted or underestimate other teams.”
At the head of the powerhouse program is coach and renowned faceoff specialist Paul Cantabene, who has led the Mustangs for 13 years and has yet to produce a losing record. Along with 13 winning seasons under Cantabene, the team has brought in numerous conference championships along with eight straight NCAA tournament appearances. His most notable achievement at Stevenson came in 2013, leading the program to a national championship.
The team’s nationally ranked schedule outside of conference play might give other coaches cause for alarm, but not Cantabene.
“We like to play the best teams in the country week in and week out. It lets us know where we stand and it helps us set up for an NCAA bid and a good seed.”
The Mustangs opened up the season with a tough 16-13 loss to No. 2 RIT who remain undefeated. Senior midfielder Kyle D’Onofrio led the team with five goals and an assist. Senior goalie Ross Dinan tallied seven saves during the contest.
The Mustangs then traveled to Pennsylvania to take on then-No. 6 Gettysburg, coming away with an impressive 11-6 win. Senior Wade Korvin led the Mustangs with four goals. D’Onofrio accompanied with two assists while Dinan finished with eight saves and was later named the MAC Commonwealth Conference Defensive Player of the Week and USILA Division III Defensive Player of the Week.
Remaining on the schedule before conference play begins are five nationally ranked teams.
“We look forward to playing our schedule every year. We pretty much play the top ten, so we take it game-by-game,” Howard said. “We don’t look to the playoffs, but we look forward to playing those top 10 teams every year.”
Against upcoming opponent Tufts (March 21), Cantabene had some thoughts: “Tufts is a game that we wanted to play. We thought it was an important game because it’s a fun game to play and both teams have done well. We go back and forth, with them winning one year and us winning the next.”
“I think we will crack the top five this year. We’re already back in the top ten so I think we’ll get to the top five,” said Howard.
The Mustangs host No. 17 Ohio Wesleyan in their home opener on March 11.