It's should come as no surprise that Stevenson senior attackman Neal Barthelme is a goal away from passing teammate Richie Ford for the school record for most goals in a season. After all, the pair have been competing against one another since they were youngsters.
Barthelme said the duo began to get acquainted with each other as members of opposing youth league lacrosse teams, and their competitive fires grew as Barthelme enrolled at Dulaney and Ford played at Towson.
"So I've always been around Richie on the field, which is kind of funny," Barthelme said. "He's so good, and it's just a pleasure to be next to him, and we've always been friends. So it's never been awkward. We're just playing as hard as we can and whatever happens, happens."
Barthelme tied Ford's record of 59 goals set in 2008 with three goals in the top-ranked Mustangs' 16-7 victory over visiting St. Mary's in a Capital Athletic Conference tournament semifinal before 529 at Caves Athletic Complex in Owings Mills Wednesday.
The reigning conference tournament champion and this year's top seed in the CAC tournament, Stevenson improved to 16-1 and will advance to its fourth consecutive championship game.
The team's reward? A re-match with No. 3 Salisbury, which routed Mary Washington, 15-5, in the other semifinal. The Mustangs defeated the Sea Gulls, 16-12, last Saturday to cement home-field advantage in the tournament.
Stevenson didn't score its first goal Wednesday until Barthelme bounced a shot past Seahawks sophomore goalie Stu Wheeler with 8:51 left in the first quarter, but that sparked the offense to sprint to a 5-0 lead just 18 seconds into the second period.
St. Mary's responded with a pair of goals from freshman midfielder Ben Love and senior attackman Dennis Rosson in a span of 60 seconds.
But just 12 seconds after Rosson's goal with 12:57 left in the period, senior midfielder Jake Stocksdale scored, and the Mustangs were never seriously threatened after that.
Ford registered three goals and one assist, senior attackman Jimmy Dailey scored three times, and Barthelme added two assists.
Stevenson's full-field pressure forced the Seahawks into committing 15 turnovers in the first half, and senior Ray Witte won 13 of 18 faceoffs and scored two goals to control the game's tempo.
"I think we did a good job of pressuring them a little bit," Mustangs coach Paul Cantabene said. "I thought we just had a real good workman-like type of game. I thought we grinded it out. I thought we had a little bit of a hangover from the Salisbury game in terms of intensity. But I thought we did a good job of getting out on them, causing some pressure, and getting some easy goals."
St. Mary's (6-9) got two goals from junior attackman J.P. Lennon, but no other player posted more than a single point. Coach Chris Hasbrouck said the team was outmatched by Stevenson's execution in transition.
"They do such a great job in the unsettled," Hasbrouck said. "They move the ball very, very well, and they finish their opportunities. I think we got some chances, and we kept it tight early. But we didn't finish. And they pressure you all over the field. So at times, we had a few turnovers that were pretty costly, and once they get up, they're just on a roll."