No. 4 Stevenson can sit back Sunday and celebrate a hard-fought, come-from-behind 17-13 victory over No. 11 Washington College in Saturday night’s NCAA tournament second-round contest at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills. As much as talent and mental fortitude played a role in the team outscoring the Shoremen 6-1 in the pivotal fourth quarter, the Mustangs know they cannot afford to fall behind again when they meet No. 13 Lynchburg (14-5) – a 12-9 winner over No. 7 Roanoke – at home on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“We definitely have to jump out on them early,” sophomore midfielder Billy Burgoyne said of the Hornets. “That’s what we didn’t do [Saturday night]. We gave up the first goal and were pretty much playing down until the fourth quarter. So we’ve got to jump out early and bury them and let them know that they’re not winning in our house.”
Digging an early hole will likely be a topic addressed in meeting rooms and on the practice field this week, but coach Paul Cantabene appreciated what he saw from his players in the fourth quarter against Washington College.
Stevenson (19-2) has had its fair share of troubles in the final period this season. In a 12-11 overtime decision against Rochester Institute of Technology on Feb. 27, the Mustangs led 10-7, but the Tigers scored four of the last five goals to push the game into an extra session.
In a 7-6 loss to Tufts on March 19, the Jumbos broke a 5-5 tie with back-to-back goals before holding off Stevenson. In a 12-11 overtime win against Lynchburg on March 30, the Mustangs owned a 10-6 advantage at the end of the third quarter, but the Hornets took advantage of a 5-1 final period.
In a 14-13 overtime loss to Roanoke on April 9, Stevenson had a 13-12 lead, but the Maroons scored with 1:20 left in regulation before emerging with the victory. And in a 9-8 win against Widener in the Middle Atlantic Conference tournament final on May 4, the Pride scored with 53 seconds left in regulation to knot the score at eight before the Mustangs scored with nine seconds left.
“We’ve been preaching to our guys about how to handle these situations,” Cantabene said. “We thought that in some of our other games – RIT, Tufts, Lynchburg, Roanoke – that we hadn’t handled the fourth-quarter situations well. We’ve really been preaching about using our heads and making the easy plays. I thought we really started to grow as a team in that fourth quarter when we were making all the right plays and not fouling and giving Washington College easy plays and goals, not being lazy. I thought everybody sold out for each other. I think our team really grew in that quarter as a team that understands how to play in those situations. Earlier in the year, we’d get a big lead and the other team would come back and we’d just survive. Now I thought we really earned this win by playing really well in the fourth quarter when it mattered.”
While Mustangs fans might have been wringing their hands in the fourth quarter Saturday night, senior midfielder Nick Rossi, a Lutherville native and Towson graduate, said there was no panic on the sideline.
“It’s really not nerve-wracking because we’ve been in this situation a couple times this season,” he said. “RIT here, that was a nerve-wracking game. But now we have some experience with that type of game – Roanoke in overtime, Tufts late in the game, Widener late in the game. We’ve got some experience and we know how to make the plays when it matters.”
* Through the first three quarters, both sides had each won 12 faceoffs. The tide turned in that fourth quarter as Stevenson won 5-of-8 draws. Washington sophomore Michael Trapp won 15-of-31 faceoffs, but may have met his match in junior Brent Hiken, who went 15-of-24. “We’ve got a couple great faceoff guys, he’s a great faceoff guy, and faceoffs go in cycles,” Cantabene said, referring to Hiken and sophomore Sam Wyatt, who won 2-of-8 draws. “Sometimes you just get into a little bit of a rhythm and you win some. But all I really care about and what I tell my faceoff guys is that you can lose faceoffs for three quarters and it doesn’t matter as long as you win faceoffs in the fourth quarter. That’s what we did tonight. I thought we won the faceoffs in the fourth quarter to give ourselves a chance and made the plays to win.” Coach Jeff Shirk refused to blame Trapp for the Shoremen getting few possessions in the final period. “It was one of those things to where No. 30 [Hiken] was more confident late, and Michael was over-thinking it late,” Shirk said. “But Michael losing a couple faceoffs down the stretch didn’t lose it for us because he won some big ones for us earlier in the game.”
* Mustangs sophomore midfielder Billy Burgoyne tied a season high when he scored five goals Saturday night – matching a mark he had set in a 17-6 rout of Albright on April 13. Burgoyne, who had a hat trick in the first half, tied sophomore attackman Mark Pannenton with a game-high 12 shots and said he began to get into a rhythm early in the contest. “It’s always good when you hit your first couple shots,” said Burgoyne, who runs on the second midfield. “You get a little confidence. So I was just letting them fly tonight. I think I had 12 shots or something ridiculous like that, but I’ll take it.”
* The loss ended an encouraging campaign for Washington, which qualified for its second consecutive NCAA tournament and earned its first win in the postseason since 2008. The Shoremen were less than six minutes away from advancing to the quarterfinal round for the first time since that same year, but Shirk preferred to emphasize the positive over the negative. “The fact is, the boys played really hard, and we lost to an excellent Stevenson team that’s one of the better teams in the country,” he said. “So I know we’re one of the better teams in the country. So I’m proud of the group.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times