Stevenson in midst of difficult stretch
When No. 2 Stevenson welcomes No. 7 Roanoke to the Caves Athletics Complex in Owings Mills on Saturday at 1 p.m., the Mustangs (8-0) will be playing against their fourth ranked opponent in their last six games.
And that’s not coincidental, according to Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene.
"We like to play the best teams possible," he said. "You’ve got to play a great schedule NCAA-wise, and for us to play that type of schedule really gets us ready to play the Roanokes and the Salisburys of the world, and we like that. We don’t like to play a lot of teams where you win by a ton. We want to play the top teams because we think that’s fun to do and it really gets us ready for NCAA play."
The Mustangs’ undefeated start was almost derailed last Saturday when they found themselves trailing No. 18 Lynchburg, 5-0, with 8:02 left in the second quarter and lagging, 7-5, after the third period. But Stevenson embarked on a 5-0 run over a 5:31 span to an eventual 12-9 victory.
Cantabene said he thought that adversity could pay dividends for the players.
"I think we needed a close game like that," he said. "We were winning all of our games by seven or eight goals, but I think we needed a close game to get us in the frame of mind to play the tough teams in the country and to recognize how every possession matters, how every groundball matters. I think it showed a lot of character from our guys. They’re really learning how to manage the game, stay in the game, stay focused, and know that just because you’re down by a little bit doesn’t mean that you can’t come back. I think we have enough firepower to know that we can make a run anytime and get back into the game."
The contest against Roanoke (8-1) is a non-conference tilt, but the outcome could have an impact on seeding for the NCAA Tournament. And the Mustangs have a heavily-anticipated showdown with No. 3 and Capital Athletic Conference rival Salisbury on April 3.
"I think both teams would say that it’s an important game because if Roanoke loses, now they have two losses and they would have to look at winning their conference tournament," Cantabene said. "And if we lose, it puts a little more strain on us because we have Salisbury coming up next week. So I think for both teams, it’s a very important game, and our guys know that."