Stevenson men’s lacrosse struggling to be 'mentally tougher' against ranked competition

There is still a good vibe around Stevenson, which is 10-5 overall and 7-0 in the Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth and can capture the top seed and the right to host the league tournament with a win at Messiah on Saturday.

But the No. 14 Mustangs dropped their last two games against a pair of non-conference opponents. They fell 15-9 at No. 10 Cabrini on Friday and 7-5 at No. 18 Stevens on Tuesday.

The team is now 3-5 against ranked competition, which has not escaped coach Paul Cantabene’s attention.

“Overall, I think we’ve got to do better,” he said Thursday morning. “We are 10-5, and we’re 3-5 against ranked teams on the year. We’ve got to start being mentally tougher. I think our defense is doing a good job. I think on the offensive end a little bit, we’re struggling with how to get that killer instinct. … I think we have all the tools to be really successful. We’ve just got to start being able to play together and be willing to sacrifice more of the individual goals for the team goals in order to be better.”

As disappointing as the results against ranked opponents are, Cantabene made no apologies for adding strong competition to the schedule.

“You know that when you come here, you’re going to play good teams,” he said. “We could have played lesser teams and been more successful and been 13-2 or something like that, but that’s not what we want to do. We want to put these kids in tough situations to see if they can handle it so that we can be one of the best teams in the country.”

Stevenson can get back in the win column against Messiah (9-4, 7-0). The Mustangs have won all six meetings with the Falcons and have won by an average of 9.8 goals. But Cantabene said that history doesn’t guarantee a victory.

“Messiah is a good team,” he said. “They’ve done a good job this year with some good results. But we’ve got to worry about what we’re doing. We’ve got to be able to go out there and handle things, especially on the offensive end to help the defense because our defense is doing a really good job. We have to do a much better job. We’re winning faceoffs, we’re clearing the ball much better, we’re riding much better. It’s our offensive guys that have to hit their open shots and be unselfish and be willing to take a hit. If we can do that, we’ll be fine.”

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