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Stony Brook women’s lacrosse topples Drexel in NCAA Tournament first round

Midfielder Ellie Masera about to shoot a goal in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Drexel. Masera led Stony Brook with five goals. ETHAN TAM/THE STATESMAN

The No. 8-seeded Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team has seen plenty of dominant performances from its star midfielder Ellie Masera. This season alone, the sophomore has recorded 14 hat tricks and 63 total goals.

Masera’s dominance was no different in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Coming off a 12-game winning streak to end the regular season, Masera and Stony Brook carried their offensive momentum to demolish Drexel 16-4 on Friday, May 13.

“Today was a great win for our program — a great win for our team — and I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” head coach Joe Spallina said in an interview with The Statesman. “They knew from day one that we’ve obviously had huge goals and expectations, so this was a necessary step.”

Masera led the way with five goals and six points. Attacker Kailyn Hart followed up an impressive season finale against Albany with four goals against Drexel. Five other Seawolves contributed to the goal column by the final horn, climaxing in the third and fourth quarters when Stony Brook went on a 9-0 run.

Masera was part of Stony Brook’s America East championship team in 2021 and scored two goals against the University of North Carolina in the semifinals last year. Hart has been around since the shortened 2020 season and recorded 27 goals in 2021. Both players had career years in the 2022 regular season and showed no signs of slowing down on Friday.

The Dragons kept up with Stony Brook’s offense throughout the first half, but the second half was a different story. Drexel was held scoreless throughout the third and fourth quarters, committing 17 turnovers by the end of play.

“Our defense was incredible,” Spallina said. “We held [Drexel] to 20 shots in the game, which was a little higher than we normally do. But at the end of the day, the shots that they were getting were shots that we wanted them to have. I thought my assistant coach, Greg Miceli, did a fantastic job of preparing our defense for the different leagues and scout offense.”

Despite running away with the score in the second half, Stony Brook’s offense was held in check by Drexel in the first two quarters. This was in large part due to Drexel midfielder Karson Harris’s dominance in the circle. She held the Seawolves to just five draw controls out of 13 opportunities by halftime.

“We weren’t really getting the draws at first,” defender Clare Levy said. “We knew that there had to be a lack of defense, and we had to get clears for the offense to start going. But once we got draws in the second half, we knew that if they were going to do their part offensively, we had to do our part defensively and we had to shut them down.”

Levy led Stony Brook’s defense with three caused turnovers.

Drexel also saw strong first half performances from goalkeeper Zoe Bennett and midfielder Lucy Schneidereith. Bennett matched Stony Brook with four saves, while Schneidereith recorded two goals to keep the Dragons within striking distance entering the second half.

A pivotal moment came in the second quarter when Hart charged up to the goal to try and extend Stony Brook’s lead to five. As she took on one of Drexel’s defenders, she was struck in the face. After the officials called a foul on the defender, Hart was taken off the field by Spallina.

“It lit a fire under me,” Hart said. “I had to go back out there. If another one of my teammates was going to get hit like that, I would have done the same thing for them. No one hits one of us like that. We come right back at you.”

In less than a minute, Hart was back on the field, but not before her replacement, attacker Jesse Arline, assisted midfielder Morgan Mitchell to score the seventh goal before entering halftime.

“[Jesse is] awesome,” Hart said. “With everyone off the bench, there is no letdown. We are all on the same level and anybody who would go out there for me would do the same thing.”

After a well-fought first half, Stony Brook exploded in the third quarter. It all started when Masera scored her fourth goal of the game in the opening two minutes of the quarter. From there, midfielders Jaden Hampel and Rayna Sabella tacked onto the score to make it 10-4.

“[Stony Brook] is a great team and they know how to fight,” Schneidereith said when asked about the third quarter. “We hung with them for a little bit, but we knew they were going to start trying to start using their big dogs. We knew that Ellie Masera was going to start going hard, and she sure did. They were just capitalizing on the looks they were taking.”

Masera struck again before the end of the third quarter, tallying her fifth goal of the game and extending Stony Brook’s lead to 11-4.

“The first half was kind of rusty,” Masera said. “Then we got together and we ended up winning draws, so that was a big factor in our offense. It was just clicking in the second half.”

Not only did the Seawolves score nine unanswered goals by the end of play, but they also caused 12 of Drexel’s 17 turnovers. With both offense and defense rolling, there was no stopping Stony Brook.

However, there are still some mixed feelings about Stony Brook’s current status in the NCAA despite the lopsided victory against Drexel in the first round.

“I think we have a chip on our shoulder,” Spallina said. “I think we were seeded wrong, but every step of the way, we’re here to just do what we do.”

Ranked No. 8 despite toppling No. 7 Florida earlier this year, Stony Brook is slated to face Rutgers in the second round. If the Seawolves come out on top, they will likely face No. 1 North Carolina in a rematch of last year’s semifinals.

“We’re blocking out the noise,” Spallina continued. “We don’t care what our name says on a piece of paper, we’re just going to win every game we can.”

With tough competition in the days ahead, the Seawolves prepare to host Rutgers on Sunday, May 15.

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