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Stony Brook men’s lacrosse almost knocks off No. 4 Rutgers

Attackman Dylan Pallonetti with the ball in the game against No. 4 Rutgers on Saturday, March 5. Pallonetti tied for the team lead with five goals. ETHAN TAM/THE STATESMAN

After a miraculous fourth-quarter rally, the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team had one final chance to send the game into overtime against the No. 4 Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

With 12 seconds left, attackman Kevin Mack’s shot was saved by Scarlet Knights goalkeeper Colin Kirst, his ninth of the second half, and Rutgers (6-0) hung on to survive 17-16 against an upset-hungry Seawolves team on Saturday, March 5.

“The last possession, I think we all thought we were going to score there and tie it up, and Renz was going to win the next faceoff,” head coach Anthony Gilardi said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “That’s something we’re proud of in the locker room when it comes down to culture.”

It was Stony Brook’s (4-1) first loss of the season. While the Seawolves won their first four games and the Long Island Cup, it was not enough to earn a position higher than “received votes” in the national polls.

The Seawolves led by two in the second quarter and after falling behind, tied the game in the third by scoring a pair of goals in 12 seconds. But Kirst, who made nine of his 12 saves in the second half, repeatedly denied Stony Brook’s attempts down low. The Scarlet Knights scored six of the next seven goals to turn an 11-11 deadlock into a 17-12 lead with 10 minutes to go.

It would have been easy for Stony Brook to fold late, facing a sizable hole against the fourth-ranked team in the country. Gilardi’s squad never quit, and the Seawolves quickly poured on four goals in the next two minutes to cut the deficit to one. Two came from attackman Dylan Pallonetti and the other two from midfielder Mike McCannell. Both led all players with five goals in the game, and McCannell added an assist for a sixth point.

“It was just our fight and our willingness not to give up,” Pallonetti said. “It came down to the last possession and then we just couldn’t get one more.”

Pallonetti made difficult, unassisted one-on-one goals all game long. He entered the contest holding the team lead in season points, and by the end of Saturday’s matchup, both him and McCannell earned their team-high 14th goal of the year.

Key to the Seawolves’ comeback attempt was faceoff specialist Renz Conlon, who won eight of 10 faceoffs in the fourth quarter and 24 of 34 in the whole game. He gave Stony Brook extra possessions that the Seawolves took full advantage of.

A Rutgers shot clock violation gave Stony Brook the ball back with 3:36 left. The Seawolves turned it over but goalkeeper Anthony Palma saved the Scarlet Knights’ ensuing shot to give Stony Brook the ball and one more shot to tie the game.

“[Rutgers] did a good job defending us and Dylan made a good decision; he could have tried to force it a little bit,” Gilardi said about the final possession. “Kevin got up the hash, took a shot and the guy made a save. That’s how we play offense, so we’re not too disappointed in that possession.”

After trading runs with the Scarlet Knights in the first quarter, Stony Brook took its first lead of the game when Mack’s bounce shot put the Seawolves up 7-6. They led by two goals for much of the frame, but the tide turned when a missed Rutgers shot attempt resulted in a Stony Brook long-stick midfielder tapping the ball into his own net for an own goal.

Rutgers won the following face-off and scored on the possession. Stony Brook’s 9-7 lead evaporated into a tie game in the final two minutes of the first half.

“We thought they were just another team,” Pallonetti said about not being intimidated by Rutgers’ No. 4 national ranking. “We match up just right with them, so we went out there playing our game and fell short, but a lot of lessons to learn.”

Gilardi praised the performance of his second midfield line, but Stony Brook turned the ball over 14 times, eight more than Rutgers, and had two failed clears. In a game as tight as Saturday’s was, those impacted the final score.

“I don’t think we did a good job in the 50/50 ground balls in the offensive or defensive end of the field,” he said.

The Seawolves take on Brown next Saturday on the road at 1 p.m.

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