Stevenson has quickly climbed the Division 3 NCAA Lacrosse ladder. They’re clearly a top 4 team this year and are sending ripples throughout the Division, and broader lacrosse world, with their self-promotion, success on the field and swagger.
Stevenson also puts all of their Lacrosse games online for people to watch (follow the link for a full slate of their games!). That’s right, ALL their games. I live in NYC and have seen my alma mater, Wesleyan (in CT) play live once and online twice. For D3 lax, that’s actually not bad. On the top end of the spectrum though, Stevenson sits alone. I’ve seen Stevenson play online in 7 games (and I have also seen some of their opponents play online). SEVEN games! I think I really know this team. And since everyone seems so interested by Stevenson lately, I’m more than happy to give a full report on what makes this team dangerous, and what makes them beatable.
Offensively, Stevenson is all about shot generation. They’re looking for quality shots, but won’t pass up lower angle shots if they think they’ve beaten their man. The team has guys who can score all over the field and although some are better at creating chances than others, they are all very dangerous if left unattended. #28, Jimmy Dailey, on attack is their go-to guy offensively and he can create for himself just as easily as he can draw the double and hit cutters with good feeds. His biggest weapon is his change of direction and while the other Mustang players can all play at a high level, Dailey is clearly the top dog.
He is blessed to have a guy like #16, Richie Ford, on his attack line as Ford is great off the pass when dodging or shooting, plays very creatively and is a scorer plain and simple. Ford benefits more from Dailey than the other way around, but both players make each other much better. #49 rounds out their attack line with a little size and and a good skill set. With all the attention Dailey and Ford receive, options open up and his key skill is finishing and creating space.
As usual, Lax.com has UNREAL photos of the Tufts-Stevenson game courtesy of LaxPhotos.com
The Stevenson middies are all dangerous players who can go to the cage and most seem unafraid to dodge the pole. #39 and #1 are their most impressive players at the midfield offensively while #25 is an excellent face off man who is more than willing to bull dodge his way through a defender after winning it forward for a shot on goal. This works just perfectly with the Stevenson attitude of “I’ve never met a shot I didn’t love”.
Stevenson does look to feed the crease and get shots off of dodges on the run, but they do seem to prefer a 10-12 yard step down shot when they can get it. They shoot underhand, sidearm or overhand, love to bring the heat and shoot in a flashy manner. This also allows for them to dodge off of shot fakes if defenders do not play their body and fall for stick fakes. A number of their middies will also use COD dodges to generate shots and not are afraid to let it go off the spin.
When Stevenson does take a low angle shot, they often get back to basics taking overhand shots, often going high to low or off hip. Of course a behind the back shot is never out of the question as this team seems to thrive on flashy play and highlight worthy goals. They are an emotional team and they use their emotion to carry them forward and to keep pressing the Defense with a high number of shots. Seeing Stevenson put up 70 shots against a Top 20 team is not out of the question.
Defensively, they have some very solid poles and athletic, aggressive short sticks. #11 on D is pretty darn solid all around while #8 and #9 can throw some great takeaway checks and put pressure on opposing offenses, even well outside the box. #3 has the most size of anyone on the Stevenson D but is succeptable to being beaten with change of direction dodges. He is probably the weakest link on the Mustang D, but would probably also start for most D3 teams in the country. So I’m not saying he’s bad. Far from it. He’s just the least best, if that makes sense.
The goalkeeping is solid in net but questionable on clears. The Stevenson goalie, #6, is still a little inexperienced at the college level but he’s saving the ball very well and makes good outlet passes. His big question mark is a slowed down clear where he has to make long passes to players on the move or under pressure. With a soft ride that jumps the clear all of a sudden, turnovers can definitely be created.
They will press out all over the field with shorties and longsticks. At times, they do get beaten for goals or good looks but that is the price any team pays when they extend. This slight problem is compounded by the fact that Stevenson will double the ball if they can so if you can split a double, there may be a 6 on 4 at hand. The Mustangs are ok with this though because they just want to get back to running, gunning and generating shots.
They want saves, turnovers… even goals. It’s all better than the game getting slowed down for them. So far, a couple of teams have held the ball against Stevenson and tried to weather the Mustang storm on offense. This is probably not going to work. Against Stevenson a team must continue to score. It doesn’t have to be in a run and gun style, especially if the team has a strong defense, but scoring is key to keep Stevenson on the short end of the stick. Even if it’s 7-5 in the 4th quarter, they are still more than capable of winning by 10. Because they will continue to shoot, shoot, shoot.
Tufts recently travelled down to Maryland to take on Stevenson at Towson and escaped with a 14-13 victory. They kept scoring, kept fighting and didn’t just weather the Mustang storm, they created their own. They also got 24 saves from Steven Foglietta. That never hurts. Cortland, another top team, took on Stevenson as well, but didn’t score enough, and even their vaunted defense couldn’t hold back the Stevenson O.
The other that the Cortland game exposed is that the Mustangs do their research. They knew who was going to dodge, who was going to shoot and who was going to finish for the Red Dragons. They either let guys go to their strong hand and then doubled quickly with solid slides or they gave them weak hand and forced them to move it on. Overall, the D looked good in that game, but the only thing I would note is that they have a penchant for high hits, pushed from behind and other foolish penalties. I think this just draws into their “flashy and aggressive” style of play but could come back to hurt them later on, especially in the playoffs.
Overall, Stevenson looks extremely talented and deep. They have good athletes, lots of skill and they play the game with the passion needed to succeed. There is no way they are going to water down their shoot all day mentality and I love watching them press out on D. If they can clean up their clearing game, reduce the number of stupid penalties (at least against better teams) but keep on playing hard and with vigor, they’ll have a great shot at winning it all.
Tufts – Stevenson action via ILacrosse. See for yourself!