Stevenson’s mission to become only the fifth program to bring home back-to-back NCAA Division III titles came to an abrupt end with a 12-11 loss to Washington College in the tournament quarterfinals.
The setback reminded coach Paul Cantabene of the difficulty of staying ahead of the pack and reaffirmed his respect for Hobart, Salisbury, Middlebury and Nazareth for their ability to string together at least a pair of national championships.
“Hobart won 12 in a row [from 1980 to 1991], and I don’t think we’ll ever see another team do that, especially with how many teams are working hard,” he said. “So you’ve got to tip your hat to a team that did that and to how Salisbury won three in a row [from 2003 to 2005] and how Middlebury won three in a row [from 2000 to 2002]. Those are special teams with special players. I think now, everybody else is getting a lot of good players and everybody else is getting the facilities they need and the recruiting they need. So it’s going to be a lot tougher for teams to repeat as much.”
Life was much more arduous for the Mustangs after they captured the 2013 NCAA crown. Not only did the 2014 squad finish with one more loss (three) than the previous year’s team (two), but their scoring was down (14.5 goals per game this past spring compared to 15.5 in 2013).
Cantabene pointed out that repeating as national champion is tougher now than in previous years as more institutions are making a more concerted effort – either financially or schoolwide – toward their lacrosse programs.
“It’s definitely more difficult because more teams are working harder at it,” Cantabene said. “There’s more full-time coaches, there’s more full-time assistant coaches, there’s more teams working at it, there’s more teams putting more resources into it, and there’s more teams scheduling the right way. So it’s tougher. I’m sure Salisbury will tell you the same thing or Tufts or Cortland. Everybody’s working hard. So it’s really tough to have the best teams year in and year out. I think it’s really tough now for teams to win two, three, four in a row because everybody’s working so hard and everybody wants to do it. You’ve got to get the right mindset in the kids, and there’s a lot more distractions nowadays for kids. I think the kids are a lot more distracted with what’s going on, and you’ve got to really do a great job of controlling your kids and what’s going on, and I think every school struggles with that.”