Moments before No. 2 Stevenson’s home contest against No. 8 Rochester Institute of Technology at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills, senior midfielder Nick Rossi confided in sophomore midfielder Michael Crowe that he was feeling antsy about taking the field for the first time this season.
“I was a little nervous before the game today,” Rossi admitted after Stevenson nipped the Tigers, 12-11, in overtime on the strength of sophomore attackman Mark Pannenton’s goal with 1:49 left in the extra session. “I told Michael Crowe, ‘Man, I’m a little nervous. I haven’t been on the field in a while.’ But after that first possession and getting a couple runs, I kind of settled in.”
Rossi’s nerves may have been understandable. It was only last week when the Lutherville native and Towson High graduate learned that the NCAA had granted him another year of eligibility. But he was still rehabbing a dislocated left elbow and a torn flexor tendon in his left forearm suffered in the preseason.
Rossi said the injury doesn’t require surgery, and he must wear a brace to protect the elbow. But he said he was driven by the desire to return to the field.
“I was really excited to get out here because I’ve been watching these guys play two games now, and just kind of been itching,” he said. “It means a lot to me to be able to come out and play this final year.”
Rossi, who ranked fifth on the team last year in points with 29, isn’t just a scorer. He also plays defense, and senior defenseman Parker Bratton said the unit is stronger with Rossi back in the fold.
“It was really good to have him back on the field on that first midfield line and on defense, too,” Bratton said. “He hasn’t been playing a whole lot with the elbow, but he’s coming back and he’s really excited, and we’re very happy to have him back.”
Rossi missed on his first five shots against RIT, but on his sixth attempt, Rossi ranged left to right at the top of the box and bounced a shot into the top shelf to give the Mustangs an 11-9 lead with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter. The Tigers scored two goals in the final 1:11 to send the game into overtime, but Rossi was happy to break the seal in his first game.
“I had a good matchup the whole game,” he said. “I just wasn’t finishing my shots and not getting good looks. I was kind of taking my angle away. So I was confident that I could get a goal, and when I finally got one, it was a big goal. It was the 11th goal.”
* Stevenson freshman goalkeeper Dimitri Pecunes made a career-high 11 saves Wednesday night, but that didn’t prevent coach Paul Cantabene from calling out the Baltimore native and Calvert Hall graduate. “I think Dimitri’s going to be a great goalie here one day,” Cantabene said. “He’s got to understand how to prepare himself for every game. He’s only a freshman, and I thought today he came out a little unprepared. … I think some of the outside shots they hit were bouncers he should have had. I thought he came off the pipe on three goals. He should’ve just stayed where he was, and he would’ve gotten hit. But he did make some saves, and he got better. I had a strong talk with him at halftime, and I thought he responded well and made some saves. He needs to be in those situations. He’s a freshman and he’s going to be in more of them. So it was a good learning experience for him.”
* If the Mustangs had lost Wednesday night, they would not have had to look any further than their ineffectiveness on extra-man opportunities as an area of concern. RIT committed nine penalties for 6:30, but Stevenson was only able to score twice. The man-up offense is now just 4-for-19 so far, but Cantabene preached patience. “I thought we did a great job of moving it around. We just didn’t score,” he said. “That’s the tough part sometimes, when you get a hot goalie like [Johnston] was. I think our man-up unit is actually better than a year ago. I know the stats don’t say that, but we’re moving the ball and getting better shots. We’ve just got to finish. We’ve got to have that toughness to finish the ball. We just didn’t do that tonight.”
* After Tigers junior midfielder Taylor Wisman scored with 43.5 seconds left in regulation to knot the score at 11, Cantabene asked officials to check Wisman’s stick for tape on the head. According to Cantabene, that’s a no-no and he said officials should have waived off the goal. “From my understanding, that’s not a goal,” he said. “From my understanding, you can’t do that. Having that is an advantage because it helps keep the ball in and everything like that. The referees said they weren’t going to call that.” Not to be outdone, RIT coach Jake Coon promptly asked officials to check the strings on Pannenton’s stick, which were determined to be longer than the mandated two inches of length. “If he’s going to call a stick check on us, I’m going to call one on him, I guess,” Coon said. “Paul and I are friends. We get along. But if he’s going to call one on me, I guess I’m going to try to get one on him. Everybody’s fighting and clawing for an advantage out here, especially two top-ranked programs. So I wasn’t going to let him get away with one there.”
* Cantabene and Coon both agreed that they are interested in making this series an annual tradition. Cantabene said Coon suggested arranging a contest on Long Island, which he is open to. “We’ll go to Long Island,” Cantabene said. “We definitely want to play again. We love the game, we love the styles of the two teams. I think they’re always a fun team to play against because I think they play the right way.”