Stevenson’s game on Saturday against Rochester Institute of Technology at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse is being billed by many as a rematch of last year’s NCAA title game that the Mustangs won, 16-14, for the university’s first Division III national championship.
That’s not how Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene sees it.
“We know it’s a big game, and we know they’re going to be pumped up because it’s their first game of the year,” he said of the Tigers Thursday morning. “For us, it’s obviously a big game, but it’s another regular-season game. We’ve got a lot of other games to play. You’ve got to take it a little bit in both ways. We’re very excited to take them on again because we know they’re a great team, and we want to see where this team is and how it stacks up against some of the better teams in the country. We built our schedule to get us ready for the conference and getting ready for the NCAA tournament.”
Asked if it's a statement game, Cantabene replied, “I don’t think it’s a statement game. It’s our second game of the year and their first game of the year. I think both of these teams are going to change a lot by the end of the year. Like most teams are, we’re just trying to figure out where we are and who are players are going to be and go from there. So I don’t know if it’s a statement game or not. I wouldn’t characterize it as that.”
RIT – which is ranked second in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association preseason poll – returns its top eight scorers, two of three starting defensemen and its starting goalkeeper from a team that went 19-3 last season. But Saturday will be the Tigers’ first foray into the regular season, while the Mustangs – who are ranked No. 1 by the same poll – outlasted York, 9-8, in overtime on Saturday.
“I think it definitely helps us,” Cantabene said of that win. “It was good for us to get a game under our belts. We learned a lot about our team, and we know what changes we have to make. We tweaked some things, and I have to handle gameday a little bit better. So it helps us.”
The contest against RIT is one of eight involving teams ranked in the USILA poll. It is a highly anticipated matchup for everyone involved, but Cantabene knows his players must play with their emotions in check.
“Everybody’s going to be real excited to play this game this week because not a lot of our kids get a chance to play in that area, especially in the [Carrier] Dome, and I think it’s a great thing for them,” he said. “But we have to do a better job of remaining composed and not getting too excited and playing the game. We know they’re going to be very excited in their game. We’ve got to do a good job of maintaining the course. We know there’s going to be runs both ways, but we’ve got to remain composed and play the game and not get too wrapped up in the excitement.”