Salisbury is the torchbearer for NCAA tournament semifinals, making 10 of the last 11 Final Fours. But Stevenson is beginning to establish itself as a regular in the semifinals.
The No. 4 Mustangs (20-2) will be making their fourth Final Four appearance in the last five years when they play host to the reigning national champion and No. 12 Sea Gulls (17-5) this Sunday night at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills. It is a badge of honor for a program that had not qualified for the NCAA tournament until 2009.
“It means a lot for our team to keep doing this,” coach Paul Cantabene said Friday morning. “We don’t take it for granted getting to the national semifinals each year. It’s something that we take very seriously, and I think the guys are very proud of the accomplishment. But at the same time, they’re not satisfied. We’ve been here and now we’ve got to take that next step as a program and I think we’re very focused on that.”
Cantabene was alluding to Stevenson’s 0-3 record in the semifinals. The team fell to Gettysburg in 2009 and was ousted from the tournament by Salisbury in 2011 and 2012. Cantabene said ending that trend is a priority for the players and coaches.
“It means a lot to our guys, and it is motivation,” he said. “They want to take that next step. They built this program and a lot of these guys were in three of the last final fours. So I think they want to take that next step. It means a lot to them. They’ve worked hard, they’ve put a lot into this and it’s all part of the journey for them because they’ve put so much into this program and it means so much to them. To see where it has come from when we started, I think they really want to take that next step.”
The Mustangs will have to get past the Sea Gulls – who have won 10 NCAA titles – to achieve that goal, and senior midfielder Peter Green said the team would have it no other way.
“It’s very meaningful, especially for me being a senior and getting another rematch with Salisbury,” he said. “They’ve beaten us and kicked us out of the playoffs two times in my three years. In my four years here, we’ve never beaten them at home. So this is a very special game for me on Sunday.”