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Postscript from Salisbury at Stevenson men's lacrosse

Postscript from Salisbury at Stevenson men's lacrosse

No. 19 Stevenson is in the midst of its worst start in recent memory after Wednesday night's 13-6 loss to No. 2 Salisbury at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills.

How recent? The team's archives only go back as far as 2007, but the Mustangs have lost three of their first four games and dropped three straight at home for the first time since at least 2006.

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Coach Paul Cantabene acknowledged that the team's struggles are testing the players' and coaches' mettle.

"Obviously, you're frustrated when you lose three straight, especially at home," he said. "But I think they understand we're getting better. We're making better decisions. We understand how we have to play, but we need to play tougher. They understand that. We're getting there. Everybody's frustrated. I'm frustrated, the president's frustrated, the AD's frustrated, everybody's frustrated. It's a tough start to the season, but we're not throwing everything away. All of our goals are still right there, and we've got to grind it out."

Stevenson will attempt to turn the season around when it visits No. 12 SUNY-Cortland (1-2) on Saturday. Another loss will certainly drop the Mustangs from the rankings, but Cantabene said his focus is centered on giving his players the direction they need to win games.

"The guys are frustrated, but they've got to be mentally tough to get through this," he said. "This is big-boy lacrosse. This is not going on the rec field and throwing the ball around and saying, 'Hey, let's have a good time. It's OK if you throw it away.' No. We have to start to understand how we need to play and how to play tougher, and our guys understand what we're trying to do. They understand we have their best interests in mind, and we're trying to get better. And they want to be successful. They stay late, they come early, they work hard, and they understand. Things aren't going our way. It happens sometimes in sports. We've had nine excellent lacrosse seasons here, really good ones. This one is not off to the start we want. We understand. But in the end, we still think we can make it a good season."

Circling back to "Three Things to Watch"

1) Stevenson's slow starts. While the Mustangs' first two losses to No. 3 Rochester Institute of Technology and Western New England were marked by halftime deficits, they matched Salisbury (6-0) goal-for-goal, and the teams were tied at 5-5 at halftime. But Stevenson was outscored 8-1 in the second half, and Cantabene said offensive inefficiency and turnovers contributed to the team's downfall.

"We like to die by a thousand wounds," he said. "Some of the things we do kill us. … We played a good first half, but we've got to play 60 minutes."

2) Salisbury's goaltending. Sophomore Joshua Dean's six-save performance wasn't his best of the season. The Glen Burnie resident and Pallotti graduate made eight and seven stops in victories over Montclair State and Gettysburg, respectively. But Sea Gulls coach Jim Berkman said Dean responded well after a one-save showing in Sunday's 13-12 overtime decision against No. 9 Ohio Wesleyan.

"I think it was his best game in that he didn't let up any soft goals tonight," Berkman said. "The goals they got were right in his face and anybody in goal tonight, [the Mustangs] would have gotten those four or five. There were no cannon shots from outside that were 18 or 19 yards that have happened in the last few games. So that was good, especially at night. He made those saves that he was supposed to make. I thought he did a pretty good job clearing the ball, too."

3) Stevenson's ground balls. The Mustangs finished with 35 ground balls to Salisbury's 40, which isn't terrible. Instead, Cantabene was more perturbed by the team's game-worst 22 turnovers. After coughing up the ball just six times in the first half, Stevenson turned the ball over 16 times in the last two quarters, which often prevented the team from trying to make a comeback against the Sea Gulls.

"We're sloppy there," Cantabene said. "In the end, we were trying to hustle the ball up the field because we were down and a couple of those were because of that. But we've got to do a much better job of taking care of the ball. Some of them are very casual bad turnovers. We've been harping on them, working on them in practice, try to make them understand how we play. In order to do that, we can't give a good team like Salisbury second chances. I thought we just gave them too many second chances."

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