Stevenson, Lynchburg Sweep Mustang Classic
by Megan Schneider | LaxMagazine.com
"Every player leaving here this weekend, whether you won games or didn't win games, you were going to say that this was a great environment. Stevenson did a wonderful job hosting and it was great lacrosse. At the end of the day, this mid-season classic allowed Division III to take another step. For us to be a part of it is something really special."
- Lynchburg head coach Steve Koudelka
In-Game Blog Replay
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Aggressiveness was the name of the game Saturday for the second of back-to-back nights of the Mustang Classic -- an NCAA Division III men's lacrosse showcase at Stevenson.
Defending NCAA champion and No. 2-ranked Stevenson defeated No. 6 Cortland 9-8 despite only scoring one goal in the second half. Earlier in the day, No. 10 Lynchburg secured a 13-10 win over Nazareth behind three players who scored hat tricks.
The host Mustangs started out strong during the nightcap and extended their home winning streak to 18 games.
"We made the plays to win the game, rather than make the plays to lose the game," Stevensoncoach Paul Cantabene said.
The Mustangs jumped to a 5-1 lead despite Cortland's Mike Cantelli putting the Red Dragons on the scoreboard first at the 13:42 mark of the first quarter.
Junior Sam Wyatt, sophomore Stephen Banick and junior Colin Dabney scored one goal apiece to kickstart the game for Stevenson, while Billy Burgoyne got his first two goals of the game.
Stevenson dominated faceoffs, winning 15 of 20, and went 5-for-8 on extra-man opportunities. With their nationally-ranked man-up offense, the Mustangs took advantage of every opportunity given to them, as Cortland racked up nine penalties, including two on goalie Scott Tota, who came out of the crease to add extra pressure.
"All of my goals came on man-up today," Burgoyne said. "We're over 50 percent for the year and that's all you can ask for. Coming in and playing upstate New York teams, you know they're going to be physical, and in turn, our boys were going to be physical too. I knew there were going to be a lot of fouls. Just have to hope our man-up is better than theirs."
In the second quarter, Benjamin Dunlavey scores for the Red Dragons, but the Mustangs responded again with three unanswered goals by Glen Tompkins, Joe Balestrieri and Tony Rossi, outshooting Cortland 21-15 in the first half.
Leading 8-2 heading into the third quarter, Stevenson looked like it would win in a blowout. But the offense stalled. Burgoyne scored the Mustangs' lone second-half goal.
Cortland, meanwhile, scored six goals on 14 opportunities and held Stevenson scoreless for the final 21:48. The Red Dragons took advantage of man-up situations, scoring the only four goals in the fourth quarter to pull within one.
"Obviously, we played very, very poorly in the first half and a lot of it was picking up some unnecessary penalties and we were man-down for a big chunk of the first half," Cortland coach Steve Beville said. "It put us in a really big hole, so the thing we stressed at halftime was getting things under control, chipping away at things one at a time."
With 1:10 remaining, Matt Rakoczy attempted to tie the game, but the shot was stopped by Mustangs goalie Dimitri Pecunes, who finished with nine saves.
"For the past few weeks, we've really been stressing to put a game together start to finish," Rakoczy said. "Obviously, this weekend, both times in the first half, we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. But the positive thing is we did fight in the second half to make a comeback."
Following a timeout with about 50 seconds remaining, Stevenson turned the ball over. But time expired before the Red Dragons could get a shot off. Cortland dug itself too big of a hole early in the game to recover.
Earlier in the day, Lynchburg clinched its win over Nazareth with two unassisted goals in the final 1:11 by sophomore Austin Stewart, choosing to attack the goal rather than stall late.
"What's the difference between rolling the ball in the corner and a goalie saving it?" Hornets coach Steve Koudelka said.
"We knew there were 10 seconds left in the timer-on situation and we didn't want to just dump the ball in the corner," Stewart said. "We wanted to finish with a statement. I was just fortunate to get to the middle and put it away."
Stewart, Campbell Armstrong and Aaron Murphy scored three goals each for Lynchburg in a back-and forth contest.
Murphy opened the game with a goal at the 9:04 mark of the first quarter. Nazareth answered with three consecutive goals to claim an early 3-1 lead. But the Hornets came right back to tie the game with goals by Armstrong and Murphy.
Collin Clark would score one more goal for the Golden Flyers before the Hornets' Todd Galvin, Stewart, Armstrong and Murphy brought the lead to 7-4 at the 6:34 mark in the second quarter.
Lynchburg led 8-5 at halftime and scored again in the third quarter before Nazareth started to chip away at the lead.
"We just wanted to keep doing what we were doing and clean up the mental mistakes," said junior midfielder Drew Simoneau, who led the Golden Flyers with a 17-for-26 faceoff performance. "We were shooting the ball early before we even had the full subs on the field. Just making the little mental lapses cost us a few goals in the first half, so we knew that we needed to come out a little more savvy in the second half."
With four more goals by Nazareth's Matt O'Neill, Nick Arnold, Luke Wooters and Simoneau, the game was tied 9-9 two minutes into the fourth quarter.
"We've been there," Koudelka said. "Earlier in the year, we were up about 9-5 on Salisbury and they came back and then it went into overtime. Last weekend, we were up on Colorado College, but in the second half they came back. Last night, [Cortland] came back.
"We've got to fight and find a way to not let that happen, but it was nice because our guys have kind of been there done that. You've just got to put a line in the sand and say enough's enough."
The Hornets regrouped, working pick-and-roll plays, and answered with goals by Charlie Oldendorp and Armstrong, reclaiming the 11-9 lead.
Nazareth's Brian Wright scored his second goal of the game with 6:55 remaining, closing the gap to one. But the Hornets held on for the win.
"I trust the defense more than anything," Stewart said. "Yeah, they put a few away, but it's a game of runs. We kept grinding."
Lynchburg goalie Andrew Fawkes came away with 19 saves for the day, playing the full 60 minutes, an impressive feat with Nazareth's 48 shots on goal. He allowed just 10 goals.
"When you look at the stats, we almost double them up in shots," Nazareth coach Rob Randall said. "We out-ground-balled them by 10. Drew did a fantastic job with the faceoffs. We cleared the ball well. The most glaring thing for me is that we were 0-for-5 on extra-man [opportunities] and their goalie, Fawkes, you've got to give him credit where credit is deserved. He had 19 saves. If he had 15, we probably would've won the game. "
With the competitive nature of the game, Nazareth had four penalties for a total of three minutes while Lynchburg had five for 3:30.
"Our team likes to play physical and obviously they were getting after it," Fawkes said. "This environment with this tournament here adds to it. The physicality is a good thing, but you've got to have a little bit of discipline. Toward the end of the game, we did that, and that's why we came out on top."
Cortland, Lyncburg, Nazareth and Stevenson all have NCAA tournament ambitions. The Mustang Classic format amped up the excitement and got the teams accustomed to this type of competition in a condensed timeframe. In 2016, the NCAA may adopt a back-to-back weekend tournament for playoffs similar to this weekend's contests.
For Simoneau, this style of play reminded him to "rest up, carb up and drink a lot of water."
"Every player leaving here this weekend, whether you won games or didn't win games, you were going to say that this was a great environment," Koudelka said. "Stevenson did a wonderful job hosting and it was great lacrosse. At the end of the day, this mid-season classic allowed Division III to take another step. For us to be a part of it is something really special."
Stevenson and Lynchburg, both of whom swept their games this weekend, will face each other next weekend. "I guess you can kind of call it the championship of the Mustang Classic," Burgoyne said.
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