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Local product Mikey Sabella continuing to live up to the hype

Defender Mikey Sabella in a scrimmage against Merrimack College on Jan. 28. Sabella has an illustrious Seawolf career and looks to add to it in 2023. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

Perhaps one of Stony Brook Athletics’ finest local acquisitions, defender Mikey Sabella has proved his worth at the collegiate level time and time again. 

Powered by grit, physicality and aggressiveness, Sabella is poised to make a major impact on the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team as it transitions into the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

Through his first three years at Stony Brook, Sabella has been selected to two All-Conference teams, an All-Rookie team and an All-Tournament team. Based on the hardware he has taken home, one might not know that Sabella was relatively late to the party regarding lacrosse. Sabella began playing in sixth grade at his father Mike’s suggestion.

“I was always a football player,” Sabella said in an interview with The Statesman. “All of my friends from the football team always played lacrosse. I never played it growing up and I just felt left out. My dad said ‘Oh, you should go play,’ so I started playing.”

Sabella’s father had a major influence on his love of sports from the start. Sabella’s father was a football player himself, as well as a gymnast. Sports run in the Sabella family’s blood, as Mikey’s sister, Rayna, was a two-time All-Conference midfielder for the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team from 2018-22.

“My dad preached from a young age about how he was the man and stuff,” Sabella said. “It was all about living up to that. My dad pushes the hell out of me and my sister pushes the hell out of me.”

Though Sabella’s career has been quite successful, the early stages of his lacrosse journey were not easy. He was behind the curve compared to his teammates, forcing him to work twice as hard as everyone else.

“At first, these kids have all been playing since they were little,” Sabella said. “I was in sixth grade. I was just not as skilled as everyone else. I was way behind, so the first few years were a little rough, but my dad kept pushing me though it. Eventually, I kept working hard and got better.”

The late start compared to others did not halt Sabella for long. He quickly stormed past the other players in his age group. In just seventh grade, Sabella started to realize that he may have the potential to play lacrosse at the collegiate level. 

“It took a year for me to get my feet underneath lacrosse,” Sabella said. “But once I started to push past those other kids who have been playing for so long, I started realizing that I belong here and I’m good at this. The fact that I developed something quicker than some of those other guys just showed me that I could play wherever.”

Sabella was also a wrestler during his younger years, being pulled up to varsity in just eighth grade. Playing with older kids at a young age greatly aided Sabella on his journey, and he always remembered what his high school wrestling coach used to say to him: “no pain.”

“Wrestling changed my athletic career forever,” Sabella said. “Once you wrestle, everything’s a bit different. Nothing is going to be as hard as that, so going through that — especially with the coaches I had from a young age — inspired me and got me to where I am today.”

Sabella’s high school career certainly helped prepare him for playing NCAA Division I lacrosse. Sabella attended and graduated from Mount Sinai High School, which is widely regarded as having one of the best high school lacrosse programs in the country.

“It grew me to be ready for anybody at this level,” Sabella said. “At this point, there’s nobody that you could put in front of my face that I’m not ready for.”

From a young age, a college athletics career was the goal for Sabella. When it came to choosing a college to attend, Stony Brook was always near the top of the list. 

“Obviously, they have a top-notch lacrosse program,” Sabella said. “I’m looking to go into nursing and upper from there, and Stony Brook’s medical program is unbelievable, so that played a big part of it. My sister being here also played a big part.”

To accomplish his goal of nursing, Sabella recently switched his major from health science to biology. The major will allow him to stay dedicated to his team while also opening up more possibilities in his future.

Even after all the honors and accolades he has earned, Sabella is still pinpointing aspects of his game that he can improve upon. 

“I’ve always been like the ‘on-the-ball’ guy,” Sabella said. “I feel like the next step in my game is working on playing off of it when I’m not covering the ball and making everyone around me better.”

Sabella’s overall focus coming into his senior year remains the same as always: winning comes first, personal accolades come second.

“I think the first goal has got to be winning the conference,” Sabella said. “I could get no accolades and I could get every accolade, but none of it matters unless we go and win that conference. I strive to be an All-American … but obviously, nothing matters more than winning.”

With a major influx of freshman and transfer students, Sabella plans to make it a point to be an active leader both on the field and in the locker room. He encourages all returning players to do anything they can to help the newcomers learn the Seawolves’ program. 

“We’ve got a ton of transfers and freshmen, so it doesn’t matter if you’re a senior, a fifth-year, a sophomore or a junior, everybody needs to step up and pull their part,” Sabella said. “Show them how things are done and get the culture moving.”

In their first season in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), the Seawolves have a lot on their plate. Sabella does not care for making a statement in the new conference, but rather watching the number in the win column go up. 

“There’s a lot of great teams coming into this conference … really no lack of competition,” Sabella said. “I’m not really looking forward to proving myself to this conference. I don’t think that’s the goal here. I think the goal is obviously to go in and win. I’m going to let my play speak for itself.”

Because the 2020 season was shortened by the pandemic, Sabella does have an extra year of eligibility. He plans on taking it, but is more focused on 2023 right now.

Sabella has not put much thought into his life after Stony Brook, but he is open to many possibilities, whether that be a medical career or professional lacrosse.

“I mean, I’ve got a lot of school left in front of me,” Sabella said. “But I love playing this game and I think I play at the highest level, so I’m open to anything.”

Expectations remain high for Sabella as the Seawolves transition to the CAA. After being named to the Preseason All-CAA Honorable Mentions list, look for Sabella to be an enforcer for Stony Brook this year.

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About the Contributor
Anthony DiCocco, Assistant Sports Editor
Anthony DiCocco is an Assistant Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a sophomore majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports derives from years of playing dek hockey and watching his favorite teams, the New York Islanders, New York Mets and New York Jets. He is the beat reporter for Stony Brook’s hockey and softball teams. He has also covered football, men’s lacrosse and men’s soccer. He was previously the Editor-in-Chief of his high school newspaper the Devil’s Tale at Plainedge High School. He is a local product from North Massapequa, N.Y.
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