Well-hatched plan backfired on Mount St. Mary's objective of reaching NCAA tournament

When Mount St. Mary’s took the unusual route of redshirting attackman Cody Lehrer, midfielder Eric Ososki and long-stick midfielder Mark Burns so that they would be able to use their final year of eligibility in 2013, the move appeared risky but well-conceived with the winner of the Northeast Conference tournament earning the league’s first automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament.

But a 0-3 start in conference play capped by a 12-11 loss to Robert Morris on April 14 eliminated the Mountaineers from contention for the four spots in the Northeast tournament. The team rebounded with a 10-9 upset of eventual league tournament champion Bryant on April 20, but by then, it was a case of too little, too late.

Several weeks after the end of the season, Mount St. Mary’s coach Tom Gravante conceded that the sting of the underachieving season had not subsided.

“It’s going to hurt for a while,” he said. “I’m disappointed for these kids, especially the kids that are leaving the program because the expectation was so great in terms of how wonderful the season could have been for them. My philosophy has always been the same. I never pressure them to win. I pressure them in practice to play well and it will pay dividends in the next game. … They know if a game has to be won. They know if it’s got further meaning – like the Robert Morris game. They knew they had to win that game. I didn’t have to point that out to them, and I did not pressure them at all. But I am disappointed for those kids, that they didn’t have the opportunity for what was a team goal.”

The Mountaineers enjoyed some significant wins on their schedule, upsetting then-No. 17 Bucknell, 12-11, on Feb. 17 (a setback that likely kept the Bison out of the 16-team field of the NCAA tournament), knocking off Delaware, 15-12, on Feb. 23, and manhandling Georgetown, 14-6, on March 12.

As uplifting as the victory over the Hoyas was as it helped the team reach 4-4 , Gravante had projected that Mount St. Mary’s would be 5-3 at that point.

“I was actually hopeful that we’d be a little bit better going into the Drexel game because I obviously didn’t want to drop that Towson game,” he said, referring to a 13-5 loss to the Tigers on March 2. “That was a little bit unexpected. I thought we matched up very well and being that we were home, I thought we’d get the 'W' with that one.”

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