The Stevenson men's lacrosse team did not enjoy its first lead of Saturday night's NCAA tournament second-round contest against Washington College until 54 minutes had elapsed.
But that was all the Mustangs would need.
Senior midfielder Nick Rossi's blast from the left point with 5:42 gave Stevenson a 14-13 lead, and two goals from sophomore attackman Mark Pannenton and one from sophomore midfielder Billy Burgoyne gave the No. 4 Mustangs some extra breathing room en route to a 17-13 win against the No. 11 Shoremen before an announced 740 at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills.
Stevenson has won 19 of 21 games this season, setting a program record for victories in a season. The Mustangs will make their fifth consecutive appearance in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal where they will meet No. 13 Lynchburg (14-5) — a 12-9 winner over No. 7 Roanoke — on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Mustang Stadium.
Trailing 12-11 at the start of the fourth quarter, Stevenson knotted the score when sophomore midfieder Michael Crowe scored an unassisted goal with 10:07 remaining.
Freshman midfielder Sid Looney's shot from the left wing with 7:00 left helped Washington regain a 13-12 lead, but a slashing call on sophomore faceoff specialist Michael Trapp with 6:36 remaining proved costly when junior attackman Chris Dashiell found Pannenton alone on the left wing for a long-range bomb 11 seconds later.
The Mustangs won the ensuing faceoff, and senior attackman Tyler Reid curled around the left post before sending the ball to Rossi standing alone at the left point for his eventual game-winner.
Rossi said the players adjusted their target on the Shoremen's Ted DiSalvo, aiming low on the junior goalie in the second half.
"A lot of the shots we had [in the first half] were high balls, and he was seeing them really well," said Rossi, who recorded three goals. "Coach [Paul Cantabene] came in at halftime and said, 'Look, we've got to shoot the ball low.' That's what happened, and the turf was a little wet, and anything that skipped off the turf kind of gained a little momentum, and I think that really played into us scoring some goals in the second half."
Forty seconds later, Crowe found Pannenton cutting to the crease for a 15-13 advantage.
Another 44 seconds later, Dashiell assisted Burgoyne for his game-high fourth goal.
Stevenson cemented the final score when Reid found Pannenton (four goals and two assists) alone with 2:53 left in the contest.
The fourth-quarter rally masked some uneven play by a defense that had entered the week surrendering just 6.6 goals per game. Freshman goalkeeper Dimitri Pecunes finished with 10 saves, but the Baltimore native and Calvert Hall graduate was replaced by sophomore Kevin Cain for the first 5:17 of the second quarter before returning to the field and making seven of his 10 saves in the second half.
"Just had to stay calm and react," Pecunes said. "That's all you really can do as a goalie. You just got to let things go and pick up. You have to forget about the past and just go with what you're going to do next."
The Shoremen fell to 13-5 and missed advancing to their first NCAA tournament quarterfinal since 2008. Junior attackman J.D. Campbell (Mount St. Joseph) scored three goals, and senior attackman Bennett Cord added three assists, but it was not enough for Washington to hold onto a missed opportunity.
"I think the final score is disappointing, but what I told the guys in the huddle was I couldn't have been more proud of them," coach Jeff Shirk said. "This is our fifth loss of the season, and the only loss that I can sit back and say that we didn't lose because we didn't put our best foot forward. We gave our best effort, guys sold out. We made a couple mistakes, but that happens in big games, and unfortunately, we just came up a little bit short. It's the only loss we have this year that I'm OK with. I felt like we earned a chance to be in it, and we didn't get beat because we were slow and we did something to ourselves."