When the calendar turns to April and May, the postseason becomes a pressing matter for those teams jockeying for a position in the NCAA tournament. For Stevenson, which is ranked No. 4 in the latest United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll, the road to the Division III NCAA tournament appears to be a one-lane thoroughfare as the Mustangs went 8-0 in the Middle Atlantic Conference and is poised to win the league tournament and the accompanying automatic qualifier.
But where the team might land in the NCAA tournament is nearly as significant. Stevenson (15-2) was No. 3 in the most recent South region rankings produced by the NCAA – trailing only Dickinson (15-0) and Roanoke (13-3) – and coach Paul Cantabene admitted that he has an eye on those rankings.
“You kind of have to because that shows you where you stand in the selections,” he said Monday morning. “The higher you’re ranked, the better. It means you’re playing well, you’ve beaten some ranked teams, you’ve got a good schedule. The lower you are on that list, the harder it is to make the NCAA tournament. You want to control your own destiny a little bit.”
While the Mustangs are the only representative of the Middle Atlantic Conference in to the top 16 of the South region rankings, the Centennial and Old Dominion Athletic conferences each boast five teams in the rankings. The teams in those conferences boost their resumes with victories within their leagues, which forces programs like Stevenson to beef up its non-conference schedule.
“The ODAC teams look really good now because they have five teams ranked regionally,” Cantabene said. “So that really helps all of those schools. In the MAC, we don’t have that. So that’s a little bit different. But you can’t look too much into it. You’ve just got to play your schedule and when we take care of our business, everything else takes care of itself. But it is kind of an indicator of where you stand. So at [No.] 2 or 3, you’re looking pretty good.”