Falling in an NCAA tournament semifinal for the third time in four years was an outcome Stevenson had hoped to avoid. But even after Sunday’s 7-2 setback to nine-time reigning national champion Salisbury, there was a lot to be happy about with the Mustangs.
This was a squad that had graduated a combined 217 goals and 130 assists from attackmen Jimmy Dailey and Richie Ford and midfielders Neal Barthelme, Kyle Moffitt, Sean Calabrese and Jake Stocksdale. Add three starting defensemen in Evan Douglass, Kyle Menendez and Ian Hart and faceoff specialist Ray Witte, and not many people had given Stevenson much of a chance of reaching Sunday’s stage.
But a team that started as many as two freshmen and five more went 18-5 and got past the quarterfinal round, which is where last year’s squad was stunned by Roanoke.
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“I’m proud of all of them,” senior goalkeeper Ian Bolland said. “Nobody thought we’d get here this year, and we proved everybody wrong. It always sucks to lose, but I’m really proud of the coaches to get us where we are. I’m proud of all the players to put us where we are. I think it was a good season.”
The Mustangs will have to return to the cupboard again. It appears that they will graduate three starters in Bolland and midfielders Justin Lea, Nick Rossi and Kenny Whittaker and also bid farewell to faceoff specialist Doug Reidt and defensemen Brooks DiFiore and Mathew Schenck.
“But we’re young,” coach Paul Cantabene insisted. “We’ll be back. We lost nine starters [from] last year and made it to the Final Four. We lose four this year, and we think we’ve got a lot of talented kids coming back. So we’ll be back.”
Stevenson got some high praise from Sea Gulls coach Jim Berkman.
“They did a great job after losing 17 or 18 seniors and coming back and bringing that team to the Final Four,” he said. “They had some great wins this season. It was a great battle for us against an extremely talented team today.”