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Pallonetti guides Stony Brook men’s lacrosse to first win of 2023

Midfielder Blake Behlen generating a scoring opportunity against Air Force on Friday, Feb. 24. Behlen scored a goal on Friday to help the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team pick up its first win of the season. VIKRAM SETHI/THE STATESMAN

Attackman Dylan Pallonetti’s offensive masterpiece helped the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team pick up its first win of the 2023 season.

The Seawolves (1-2) returned to Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium for their home opener against the Air Force Falcons on Friday. They turned in their best performance of the year on both sides of the ball, allowing them to secure a 15-8 victory over the Falcons.

Stony Brook found itself in an early 2-0 hole, forcing head coach Anthony Gilardi to take a timeout at the 6:26 mark of the first quarter. The Seawolves came out of that stoppage a completely different team, unleashing six-straight goals to take a 6-2 lead.

Midfielder Matt Anderson and Pallonetti tied the game by scoring within nine seconds of each other, and a back-handed goal from attackman Blake Behlen gave Stony Brook the lead. Two more goals from Pallonetti and another from Behlen extended their team’s lead, and they never looked back.

Gilardi called the timeout to allow his team to figure itself out. After that, Stony Brook calmed down and broke out.

“I usually don’t call timeouts that early in the first quarter, but I just felt like that was a big possession for us and wanted to make sure we got the most out of it,” Gilardi said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “There was no unbelievable plan that we drew up or anything. It was just ‘Hey guys, take a deep breath. Let’s make sure we’re sharing the ball.’ Those guys did a good job of staying the course.”

After a quiet second quarter that saw Air Force score the only goal, Stony Brook’s offense exploded once again. Air Force notched the opening goal of the third quarter, but the Seawolves promptly scored four in a row to put the game out of reach. Behlen started the streak by capitalizing on the man-up opportunity. Less than a minute later, attackman Jonathan Huber padded their lead. 

Attackman Ronnie Kraemer followed Huber with the first goal of his NCAA career. It was a well-earned goal, as he fired off a shot while falling to the ground after absorbing an illegal body check. 

Pallonetti capped off the streak with his fourth goal of the day to put Stony Brook up 10-4. After Air Force responded with a man-up goal from attackman Kyle Griffith, Pallonetti answered with his fifth goal of the game to end the third quarter.

Pallonetti had a strong finish as well, scoring two more goals in the final frame to help secure the win. He was a dominant force for his team, leading the Seawolves with six goals and four assists. The six goals tied his previous career high, while his four assists gave him a career-best 10 points in the game. He even scooped up six ground balls, which was second-best on the squad.

Pallonetti credited the team’s preparation for his monstrous game.

“We had a great week of practice; the energy was up,” Pallonetti said. “We were feeding off that and the offense was just buzzing today.”

Behlen was the game’s second-leading scorer with four goals. He led the team in shots on goal with eight. Huber added two goals and an assist to the offensive effort.

Kraemer, Anderson and midfielder Noah Armitage each scored one goal. Armitage also tallied two assists. Also finding the scoresheet were long stick midfielder Christian Lowd, defensive midfielder Preston Kral and midfielder Derek Takacs, who tallied one assist each.

Stony Brook’s defense played a pivotal role in the win by forcing 19 turnovers. The unit made life easier for goalkeeper Jamison MacLachlan, who saved nine of the 17 shots on goal he faced. He currently ranks third in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in save percentage at 54.8%. 

Gilardi said that the team’s physicality on defense was the difference maker in the win.

“I thought we did a good job being physical on the ball,” Gilardi said. “The first two games, that’s what we didn’t do great. We were really physical on the ball and slid hard and played team defense.”

The Seawolves also won the battle on the ground, scooping 35 ground balls to Air Force’s 30. Faceoff specialist Renz Conlon led the team with 11 ground balls. Conlon helped Stony Brook dominate possession in other ways, too. He was great on faceoffs, going 15-for-25 and posting a season-best 60% faceoff win percentage.

The Seawolves will only get one day off before their next game. On Sunday, they will welcome the Sacred Heart Pioneers to LaValle Stadium at noon. The Pioneers are 0-3 on the season after a 17-5 blowout loss to Fairfield on Wednesday.

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