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Mount St. Mary's offense takes a brief hiatus

First, the good news: Mount St. Mary's edged Manhattan, 5-4, on Saturday, thereby remaining tied with Marist and Siena for first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Mountaineers (7-3), the Red Foxes (7-3) and the Saints (7-4) are 4-0 in the league.

The defense was especially strong as the unit shut out Manhattan over the final 20 minutes, 13 seconds to preserve the victory. After being challenged by coach Tom Gravante to not allow a goal in a quarter, the defense blanked the the Jaspers in the first and fourth quarters.

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"They're consistent," Gravante said of the defense. "We have to do a better job of clearing the ball [13 of 18 on Saturday]. We had some clearing issues, and that's the job of the defense. [Junior goalkeeper] T.C. [DiBartolo] was again outstanding [with 10 saves], and I'm very happy and appreciative of his work. But I told the kids that we owe it to him to start and finish a game and not throw him under the bus where he has to make doorstep saves. And he did. They had two or three of those kinds of shots. … I think we're going to face teams down the line that have more poise to take a better shot. That's why we have to do a better job outside of that cage, on defense, on offense to limit the amount of shots that he sees, especially those shots."

Now, the bad news: an offense that was tied for 18th among Division I schools in scoring with 11 goals per game scored a season-low five goals and didn't tickle the nets again after sophomore midfielder Bryant Schmidt converted a feed from freshman attackman Andrew Scalley with 11:36 left in the third quarter.

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Sophomore attackman Cody Lehrer, the nation's leading scorer with a 3.9-goals-per-game average, did not record a single goal or assist as Manhattan concentrated on shadowing the Baltimore native and Dulaney graduate.

Gravante acknowledged the Jaspers' defensive effort, but he hinted that Lehrer played himself into the opponent's game plan.

"I don't believe in players being shut off," Gravante said. "It's just like in hoops. If they're trying to face-guard a certain player who's got the hot hand, the other four players know how to work around it. … We'll do some things in practice to re-organize him and the offense."

With four more contests against conference foes -- including Siena on Saturday and Marist on May 1 -- on the regular-season schedule, Gravante said he wouldn't be surprised if those defenses borrowed from Manhattan's blueprint, which included a zone defense.

"You don't want to assume anything, but I'm pretty certain that they're going to try to work off that game plan somewhat," he said. "It's going to be interesting, these next four games and how they play out for conference teams. But we have to be ready and we have to anticipate that's what they're going to do. If they don't, we'll play 6-on-6. That's where you have to be effective as a coach, to anticipate it, roll with it, and have a backup plan or two."


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