An uneven season became even rockier after Mount St. Mary’s dropped its Northeast Conference (NEC) opener to Quinnipiac Saturday.

While the 12-8 score was surprising, what was even more stunning was that the reigning league champion Mountaineers (3-5 overall and 0-1 in the NEC) fell to a Bobcats squad (2-6, 1-0) that had opened the season with six consecutive losses.

“It’s conference, man, and it’s a whole new ballgame,” Mount St. Mary’s coach Tom Gravante said Tuesday morning. “Sometimes I hate being the preseason No. 1 because it seems like the kiss of death. But I have to hand it to Coach [Eric] Fekete, his staff and his program. Those kids beat us. They might’ve come in as the underdog on the paper, but they outplayed us. Our kids just didn’t play good lacrosse that day from start to finish, and that’s what we’re looking for from these guys. We’re looking for a complete game and regardless of what your win-loss record may say going into conference [play], it doesn’t matter because you’ve got to come ready to play.”

The Mountaineers trailed Quinnipiac, 4-0, in the second quarter and never got closer than one for the remainder of the contest. The team’s performance was befuddling to Gravante.

“The reason why I’m confused is because we had great practices last week,” he noted. “If your team is running well in practice and they’re passionate and they’re doing great things on both ends of the field, you should expect a good game from them. It’s just unfortunate. We started that game by spotting them four goals, and we were 1-for-9 on faceoffs in the first half, and even so, it was only a 4-3 ballgame at halftime as we had the momentum going our way. We were right in striking distance, and we never tied or got the lead. I think that would’ve changed things quickly for us if we did, but we just never got there. I think that our team was a little bit overconfident going into that game because they might have seen things on paper. But I told them two weeks out, that whatever team we’re playing and whatever their record is, it’s the conference and everybody is going to play their best game against you.”

Gravante was unsure about the fallout from the loss, but he was heartened by the players’ response Monday.

“So far, so good,” he said. “We had practice yesterday, and I liked the enthusiasm and the passion that they brought to practice, which we asked them to.”