When Mount St. Mary’s secured a 10-9 upset of Northeast Conference leader Bryant last Saturday, coach Tom Gravante was gratified to see the team play with the kind of intensity, concentration and decision making he thought would be absent after the players learned that they were eliminated from contention for a spot in the four-team conference tournament.
But the Mountaineers’ effort left Gravante wondering what might have been if they had played that well in conference losses to Sacred Heart (14-5 on March 30), Quinnipiac (12-8 on April 6) and Robert Morris (12-11 on April 14).
“I’m not the only one that feels that way. I’m certain that I have 55 guys that feel that way as well as their parents,” Gravante said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s unfortunate. The reality of playing for pride set in when the last second ticked off the clock at Robert Morris, and they knew the outcome. I just hope that our underclassmen grow from this. They have to determine whether this experience will make them better players. … It was a bittersweet day unfortunately, and we knew that before the game even started. But I was very happy that they competed, and we’re asking them to do that just one more time. We don’t want to go up to Wagner [this Saturday] and end it by dropping that game. We want to finish with a win. We want to play hard and win that game and end on a positive note, especially for the underclassmen.”
Mount St. Mary’s (5-9 overall and 1-3 in the league) will meet the Seahawks (1-11, 0-4) in a battle between teams left out of the Northeast Conference tournament. But Wagner dropped an 11-10 decision to Quinnipiac last Saturday on a goal with 1.8 seconds left in regulation, and Gravante said he is not taking the Seahawks lightly.
“It’s Wagner’s Senior Day, and they have a number of young men they’re going to honor,” he said. “It’s not like they’re just going to roll over. They were tied with Quinnipiac with several seconds left, and unfortunately for Wagner, Quinnipiac scored to win that game. If they had won that game, they would have had to beat us on Saturday to make the playoffs. We told our kids to expect that this is a team that is very agitated and has struggled for many years both in and out of the conference, and they’re hungry. If you think you’re going to go up there and just play so-so, they’re going to make you pay. … So we expect a good game from them, and if we happen to get up on them early, we told them that we want them to keep their foot on the pedal. Keep playing at 100 percent. That’s where we are.”