During last year’s run to the Division III national championship, Stevenson split faceoff duties between then-junior Brent Hiken (202-of-285 for 70.9 percent and 133 ground balls) and then-sophomore Sam Wyatt (177-of-266 for 66.5 percent and 111 GB). The team is doing that again this season, but the rotation is different.
Sophomore Justin Buonomo has replaced Wyatt, and he proved himself with an 11-of-15 performance (73.3 percent) and a game-high nine ground balls in the Mustangs’ 15-14 overtime loss to the Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday.
In fact, Buonomo enjoyed more success than Hiken, a Pikesville graduate who was selected by the Denver Outlaws at the end of the second round of the Major League Lacrosse draft in January. Hiken won 8-of-16 draws (50 percent) and scooped up seven ground balls.
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“We just decided to use our two-headed monster,” coach Paul Cantabene said Monday. “We did it all last year, and this year, we did it. I think Brent moved a little bit early, and we weren’t really too happy with that and gave Justin a shot. That was Justin’s first go. He made some mistakes, him just being a sophomore. He shot the ball when he shouldn’t have, he got the illegal stick, he made a turnover early. But he’s learning. He’s a great faceoff guy and can do a lot of great things. But he’s got to make some better decisions, and we’ve got to coach him better.”
Wyatt is third on the depth chart for faceoff specialists, but he is a member of the second midfield for Stevenson (1-1) – which fell from No. 1 to No. 3 in the latest United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll. He scored two goals on six shots against the Tigers (1-0) – who moved from No. 2 to No. 1 – and impressed Cantabene.
“He played very well, and he’s going to continue to play well,” Cantabene said of Wyatt. “He lost some weight and got stronger and worked on his skills, and I thought he played very well in that game. … He didn’t play well in our first game, but I think he just needed a little bit of confidence, and he got that in this game. I thought he played well. He’s doing some really good things.”
One curious note from Saturday’s contest was that junior Kyle McNamara started for senior Kyle Holechek on close defense. Holechek, a Loyola Blakefield graduate, was a first-team All American in 2013, but Cantabene would only say that McNamara got the start via “coach’s decision.”
Asked if McNamara could start against Saturday when No. 11 Western New England (0-0) visits Mustang Stadium at 7 p.m., Cantabene replied, “There’s a shot. That might happen. We need Kyle [Holechek] to do some things better.”