11 days ago, I criticized the Commonwealth Conference and D3 lacrosse for the lack of competition. I still stand behind that notion but the Stangs who ran through their conference with 0 losses, had a reasonable challenge in both semi-finals and final games.
Stevenson defeated the Messiah Falcons 8-4 in the Commonwealth Championship. This is the Stangs 3rd consecutive title in as many years. Goalie, Conor Skeen was named MVP of the tournament, having a total of 17 saves in two games. He finished with 10 saves against Messiah, holding them to 0 points up until the 4th quarter.
Messiah gave the Stangs a good run for their money. In the first quarter, both teams failed to capitalize off opportunities, which is why the game was scoreless for the first 10 minutes. Messiah came out with high energy from both their crowd, who traveled well from Grantham, Pennsylvania, and also their goalie Sam Stengel, who finished with a total of 12 saves. Despite the high energy, the Falcons couldn't put the ball in the back of the net even though they had ample opportunities to shoot the ball. Every time a Messiah attackmen made a move to the cage, they would drop the ball from a potential assist.
In the 2nd quarter, the Mustangs started to put the ball in the back of the net thanks to some slam dunk goals. Matt Tompkins help create the first goal of the quarter when he put pressure on Stengel while he was trying to clear the ball outside the net, forcing a turnover. Tompkins quickly got the ball to Stephen Banick who scored on an open goal. Pat Candon would add on with his back-to-back goals right at the doorstep, one of which rolled right by Stengel foots.
In the second half, the Mustangs defense started to put a lot of pressure on the falcons which caused a ton of turnovers. Taylor Morgan, Callum Robinson, and Chad Williams did a wonderful job protecting the crease, making sure all the Falcons attempts came from outside. Long-stick midfielder, Josh Rufolo, also did a great job playing tough 1-on-1 defense, guarding majority of the Falcons offensive players and forcing them to turn the ball over with his stick checking ability. This aggressive tight pressure defense mixed with Skeen's goalkeeping ability can take this team very far in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Messiah made a run in the 4th quarter scoring all four of their goals, but it was too late as they were already trailing 7-0 to start the quarter. Messiah played much more competitive than they did in the beginning of the season when they loss to the Stangs 13-1 but their was a big difference in the talent level. They will have a good team in the future with a good bulk of their team coming back.
My favorite time of the season is finally here, the playoffs. The Mustangs will receive a home game in the early rounds but in the later rounds they will have to travel. I like the dynamics of the team going into the playoffs, especially the defensive end. I think they will have to ride the defense in order to make it to Philly but the offense will need to have fast starts and continue the ball movement with Tony Rossi, Stephen Bannick, and Pat Candon leading the charge. Overall, I am impressed with how this team figured it out and built that much needed chemistry after going 3-3 in their first 6 games. They will find out who they play tonight at 9pm on the NCAA Selection show.