Stevenson’s home contest against No. 8 Lynchburg will be the No. 5 Mustangs’ first against a ranked opponent since a 7-6 loss to No. 6 Tufts on March 19. Since that setback, Stevenson walloped Hood and Lebanon Valley by respective scores of 22-3 and 19-4, but coach Paul Cantabene is eager to see how the team will respond to the challenge that the Hornets pose.
“It’ll be nice to see,” he said Thursday. “I think they did a good job of playing much better and more consistent in games. I know we haven’t played the greatest of teams, but I still think you can tell how your team plays. They’re more consistent, they’re not making the same mistakes, I think they’re shooting the ball better. So I think our guys will be ready to go. They’ve played in a lot of big games, and a lot of these guys understand what it takes. Early in the season, we were playing a lot of ranked teams. So I think we know what to expect.”
In the loss to Tufts, the Mustangs turned the ball over 24 times – the second-most this season. They also shot a season-low 15 percent and lost more faceoffs than they won for the first time in 2013.
But Cantabene said the team’s primary problem wasn’t physical but mental.
“I think the Tufts game was a mental thing,” he said. “I think our team just got a little complacent on the offensive end. We’ve been riding those guys to understand that every possession means something and that every shot means something, and I think they’ve responded well to that. We’ve kind of changed the way we played offense to suit some of our strengths and address some of the weaknesses that Tufts exposed. So we’re going to be hopefully a little more well-rounded in those areas.”
One might speculate that one silver lining is that Stevenson (8-1) no longer has to play under the burden of trying to complete the regular season with an undefeated record. But Cantabene didn’t put too much stock into that theory.
“Anytime you lose, I don’t think that’s necessarily good for you,” he said. “I do think that sometimes a loss makes you look at your team differently with the things you have to change and the things you have to do a little bit differently. But in the end, for our team, it’s all about mentally where we’re at. If we’re mentally into the game, great. But if we’re mentally out of it or not ready to go, then that’s when we struggle. So it’s not the physical things with our team. It’s where we are mentally.”