Usually, a win to advance in a conference tournament is cause for celebration.
But for the Stevenson men's lacrosse team there was a level of uneasiness over the group after beating third-seeded St. Mary's, 10-8, in the Capital Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills on Wednesday.
Second-seeded Stevenson, ranked fourth in the latest United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll, improved to 14-3 and will meet top-seeded and top-ranked Salisbury (18-0) — which walloped fifth-seeded York, 18-6 — in the conference tournament final at 2 p.m. Saturday in Salisbury.
While Salisbury easily advanced to the final, things didn't go as smoothly for the Mustangs. They squandered a five-goal advantage in the third quarter and allowed the Seahawks to knot the score at 8-8 in the final frame. But junior attackman Tyler Reid's third goal of the contest with 7 minutes, 41 seconds remaining was enough to power Stevenson to its fifth consecutive appearance in the tournament final in front of an announced crowd of 355.
After the game, Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene said the team didn't play up to its usual standards.
"You're not playing tiddlywinks when you're trying to win a conference championship in one of the toughest conferences in the country," he said. "I think our guys were looking a little ahead, and that was a little unfortunate because we don't coach that way and we want our guys to really understand what it takes to win games."
Reid agreed, adding, "If you don't respect your opponent coming into a game, you're going to have a tough time pulling away when you should beat them. A win's a win, but we weren't real happy with our performance, that's for sure."
The Seahawks nearly supplanted the Mustangs in the tournament final with a spirited rally in the second half.
Trailing 7-2 with 6:07 left in the third quarter, St. Mary's embarked on a 6-1 run powered by junior midfielder Stew D'Ambrogi. The Severna Park native and Severn graduate recorded all of his five points (two goals and three assists) in that spurt, including a dart from the left wing that tied the score at eight with 9:27 remaining in the final period.
But despite being tightly guarded by a Seahawks defender, Reid still found room at the right point to swing a shot past redshirt senior goalie Stu Wheeler (a game-high nine saves).
St. Mary's won the ensuing faceoff, but Stevenson senior goalkeeper Ian Bolland made a stick save on senior attackman John Dehm's offering from the right alley. On the next possession, the Seahawks were forced to double, which left freshman attackman Steven Banick (two goals and two assists) alone in the slot to provide some additional insurance for the Mustangs with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter.
"It was definitely a little crazy with them coming down and they could tie it up," Bolland said of his game-turning stop. "You've just got to keep your head in it and try to get the next one and block out all the stuff from the past."
In addition to D'Ambrogi, sophomore midfielder Gordy Long scored twice, and junior attackman Patrick Mull added a goal and an assist, but St. Mary's season ended in Owings Mills for the third straight year.
"You can't put yourself in that hole to begin with," Seahawks coach Chris Hasbrouck said, referring to the team's five-goal deficit in the third quarter. "You expend so much energy coming back against a very good team, and we had our chances. We just didn't execute offensively in the first half, and it's a tough hole."