Stevenson's 13-7 victory at SUNY-Cortland on Saturday gave the team what it desperately needed: a win.
The Mustangs had dropped three consecutive games at home and three of their first four for the first time since at least 2006. But the positive outcome against a Red Dragons squad that entered the contest ranked No. 12 in Division III stopped the bleeding and brightened the outlook for players and coaches alike.
"Cortland is a quality team and a ranked team. So it gives you a little more confidence, but overall, we just played a lot better," coach Paul Cantabene said Thursday morning. "Our decision-making was a whole lot better, and that was really good to see. We finished our opportunities, which was good to see. I think we're getting better. After going through this, the guys see how we can play. So we're happy with how we played and hopefully we can continue moving into the weekend."
Cantabene said the victory was much needed after losses to No. 3 Rochester Institute of Technology, unranked Western New England and No. 2 Salisbury.
"After you lose a couple in a row to some good teams, you kind of question yourself a little bit, but I don't think these guys ever did that," he said. "I think they understand that we do have good players, and our decision-making and how we were playing were linked to how we were doing. I think they've gotten a lot better. They understand what we have to do and the decision process that we have to work with. I think it really did a lot for our confidence and the guys are really excited because they know they're good players and they know we can be a good team. We just have to go out there and prove it."
One audience that doubts Stevenson is the coaches who vote in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll. The group dropped the team from No. 19 to out of the rankings despite the Mustangs (2-3) owning a better record than Cortland (1-3), which remained in the poll at No. 20.
It is believed that Stevenson is unranked for the first time since March 1, 2008, but Cantabene didn't argue vociferously with the drop from the poll.
"We understand that," he said. "At 2-3, we're not a very good team right now, but there are a lot of teams out there that are kind of struggling right now. We play such a tough schedule. Going into Friday, that's our sixth game with three against a top five team. But it doesn't really matter to us. It is what it is. The voters are the voters, and we're just worrying about ourselves. It's about winning one game at a time. Obviously, it's great to be ranked, but at the same time, we know we're a quality team and we just have to win the games we're supposed to win and everything else will take care of itself."