Q&A: Stevenson Men's Lacrosse Coach Paul Cantabene
Stevenson University men's lacrosse head coach Paul Cantabene has built the Mustangs lacrosse program into one of the top programs in Division III. On April 21, the Mustangs defeated St. Mary's (Md.) to advance to the Capital Athletic Conference title game. On April 24, Stevenson will travel to Salisbury and play the No. 1 Salisbury Sea Gulls.
Coach Cantabene spoke with Pressbox about the upcoming matchup, the Mustangs' season and more.
PressBox: Coach, talk about your win over St. Mary's yesterday and how it feels to be back in the championship.
Paul Cantabene: It feels great to be back in the CAC championship game. It is a position we have been in before the last three years. We thought we played well against St. Mary's. We are happy to get a win and a chance to play Salisbury on Saturday.
PB: How much of a lift is it to have Geoff Hebert back in goal after he was sidelined for a month with a broken finger?
PC: It is great to have Geoff back. He is a team leader, knows the defense. Happy to have him back, he did a great job for us yesterday.
PB: Steve Kazimer had an eight-point day for the Mustangs...
PC: Steven wasn't as active the previous time we played St. Mary's, so we felt we needed to get him more involved this time. He got off to a great start, finished open shots when he got them. His demeanor and unselfishness has been outstanding this season. It's helped us play team offense. Last year, we were very individualistic.
PB: Division III lacrosse keeps getting better and better...
PC: Yes, all the teams are getting better all the time. Schools such as Dickinson and Connecticut College are having a great season. The landscape in the top 20 is getting better. Recruiting is improving. The benefits of it are that seven teams could win it this year. The Division III games are more exciting than D-I. D-III games have more high scoring, fast breaks, and it is action packed.
PB: How do you convince kids coming out of high school that coming to play for a D-III school and the Stevenson program is better than going Division I?
PC: If you come here or go D-III, you have a chance of winning a national championship. Why go D-I when you will most likely be buried on the roster the first couple years. Plus, we think we are a lot better than some D-I teams. We scrimmage them a lot and beat them a lot. The quality of kids that we get maybe doesn't want to go to a bottom top 25 D-I team, but would rather come play for a Stevenson. A lot of times, kids would rather go Division III because they want a college life, whereas in Division I, it's like a job.
PB: Stevenson has players from all over the country. How much has the game of lacrosse grown?
PC: It's been growing unbelievably. We have kids from all over the country -- California, Denver, New England and from Florida. Kids are training harder, conditioning has improved, and the kids are working on their stick skills more. The exposure of the game is out there. The sport is continuing to grow.
PB: After having an amazing season last year, what were the goals you made for the team for 2010?
PC: The biggest goal is to win the CAC championship. We wanted to learn from last year's games and apply [those lessons] to games this year. We will see on Saturday if we have applied them.
PB: When I say Stevenson vs. Salisbury what comes to mind?
PC: It is David vs. Goliath. We are a small school that has been playing lacrosse for 14 years and have taken it seriously for five. They have had lacrosse for the last 60 years and have been at the top for the last 15 years. They are the big dog on the block, and we are trying to emulate them and take what they have.
PB: This will be the third time in three years you face Salisbury in the CAC finals. Even though you've come up short in each contest, you've got to be proud of where this Stevenson program has come from?
PC: We are really excited where this program has come from. It would be hard to duplicate it anywhere else. We had 17 kids my first meeting; we were probably the worst Division III lacrosse team. Even a good high school team could have beaten us. But coming from the old campus to the old Baltimore Ravens training center is great. We are building a new stadium this year and are putting in some turf fields. We have come 180 degrees, the administration has been nothing but supportive, and so it's been a real miracle the past six years.
PB: When you took this job six years ago, did you envision getting to this point so quickly?
PC: Never. We just got some kids that bought into our dreams. Then the school, once they saw what was going on, bought in and helped us with getting stands and beefing up the recruiting budget, and helping us with travel and getting better games. We just had the right circumstances break for us in order for this to happen. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
PB: Last season was a huge year for the program, but if you win this weekend will it surpass all the achievements this team accomplished a year ago?
PC: I don't know if it's going to surpass all those achievements, but it sure would be nice. It would set this team apart from last year's team. It would be a big thing for our school, because we have been in the CAC conference for three years and no team yet at Stevenson has won a CAC championship. So winning the title would cement this team in the school's history.
PB: Give us a prediction on how your alma mater, Loyola University Maryland, will finish out the 2010 season?
PC: I don't think they are as athletic as a Duke or a Virginia. But the Greyhounds have a good attack, a good faceoff guy and a good goalie. (Head coach) Charlie (Toomey) has done a great job with the defense. Loyola has played everyone tough on their schedule. If they get the right set of circumstances and it goes their way, I think they have as good of a shot as anybody.
Posted April 22, 2010 at 4:25 p.m.