For the first time in 2014, Mount St. Mary's last week enjoyed a feeling of elation after a game.
That's because in 14 previous contests, the Mountaineers had been on the wrong end of a loss. But they snapped their drought with a 9-5 victory over Northeast Conference rival Wagner on Saturday at Waldron Family Stadium in Emmitsburg, and woke up to glimmers of hope and optimism.
"The next time I saw them at practice, I asked them, 'Let me ask you something, gentlemen. How did you feel on Sunday morning when you woke up?'" coach Tom Gravante said Friday morning. "And they all said, 'Great.' I said, 'So did I. And I miss that feeling. That's a great feeling, isn't it?' And they understood. So yes, it was a great feeling, a great experience."
After graduating its entire starting attack and midfield, and returning a group of players who accounted for just seven of last year's 155 goals, Mount St. Mary's (1-14 overall and 1-4 in the league) knew the deck would be stacked against it. And it wasn't until Saturday that the team rediscovered a winning formula that produced season highs in goals scored, assists (six), ground balls (38) and faceoff percentage (93.3 percent on 14-of-15 draws).
"We talked about how there are certain stats that we need to win on that stat sheet, and we did," Gravante said. "We won the ground ball battle, our faceoff kid [junior Mike Celmer] went 14-for-15, we outshot them. So we played the game that it takes to win, and I was very pleased. We needed to score more than eight goals to win this game, and they scored nine and they held them to five. You only need to score one more goal than your opponent, right? So hey, we'll take it."
The Mountaineers will close out the season with a Saturday visit to Sacred Heart (5-8, 3-2), which has already clinched a berth in the Northeast Conference tournament. The Pioneers are tied with Hobart but hold the head-to-head tiebreaker for the No. 3 seed in the tournament.
A win would cement Sacred Heart's grip on the No. 3 seed, but Gravante said he hopes his players will be motivated to head into next year with some much-needed momentum.
"It would be a new beginning toward the 2015 season. And they know it," he said. "They understand that. We're on a 1-0 run right now, and we got that monkey off our backs. They got the feeling of how to win, and I'm pretty certain they enjoyed that, and they want more. … For us, it's a different ballgame. We're playing toward the future."