CLAREMONT — The Cardinals’ game plan to control the tempo with short, smart passes while building momentum across the midfield line was working Thursday night for Stevens first-year coach Tim St. Pierre. But it wasn’t enough to hold off a hyperactive Lebanon offense from scoring three goals.
“We played an exceptional game tonight but we just ran out of gas so this year our conditioning will be need to be during the games with no preseason and a very young team,” St. Pierre said.
The Raiders were the better team Thursday as they out shot the home team by a wide margin as they had a huge advantage in offensive possession time.
“I watched the tape of Stevens against Mascoma and they really control the ball well but I think our midfield outplayed them just a bit tonight,” said Lebanon head coach Breck Tabor. “Mary Rainey really had a great game for us and our backs were just solid.”
The Cardinals used the middle of the field to distribute the ball as Zahna Rice, Jenna Bonneau and Molly Derosier were smart with their passes and rarely looked to just send the ball up field. The Cardinals were crisp with their one touches along the sidelines as Stella Lavertue and Angelina LaClair looked to use a triangle to play forward.
As good as the Cardinal defensive line is, the Raiders were just as good while Sally Rainey had but a few saves on the night. Sophie Longacre got Lebanon on the scoreboard with an odd looking goal that eluded everyone for a bit until Longacre slipped it just past Hailey Knight as Kiley Bundy had her marked pretty hard as that score stood until the half.
“We played pretty even with them but eventually our legs got tired and we just weren’t as crisp as time wore on,” St. Pierre said.
Lebanon looked to open up a bigger lead at the start of the final 40 but Knight had other ideas as she was catlike with a couple of bang-bang saves then another brilliant stop as the Raiders were goal hunting. Delaney DeShane put Lebanon up two-nil after a corner couldn’t be cleared away and the Raiders were cruising with 15 minutes left before Alyssa Graber iced things with a blast in stoppage time.
“I think this is the first time in about 10 years that we’ve played Stevens and the atmosphere is really great here in Claremont,” Tabor said. “This could turn out to be a great rivalry going forward.”
The same two teams are scheduled for a rematch on Saturday in Lebanon.
“This season we will be about building character and courage,” St. Pierre said. “This is a process and it won’t happen in two weeks but we will be a technically sound team and things I saw tonight makes me very encouraged about where we will be.”