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Stony Brook men’s lacrosse defeats Drexel to advance in CAA playoffs

Attackman Jonathan Huber reaches back to take a shot against Fairfield on Saturday, April 22. Huber scored five goals to lead the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team past Drexel in the CAA semifinals on Thursday night. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

After being walked off by Drexel in the regular season, the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team got its revenge in its first-ever Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) postseason game.

The Seawolves (9-6, 5-2 CAA) opened up their 2023 CAA men’s lacrosse tournament run on Thursday night with a 13-10 victory over the second-seeded Drexel Dragons. Though attackman Dylan Pallonetti’s scoring streak finally came to an end, Stony Brook scored 10 consecutive goals in the first half, allowing it to cruise its way to the final round.

Drexel started off hot, scoring a pair of goals through the first five minutes to take a 2-0 lead. On the ensuing faceoff following the second score, faceoff specialist Declan Mitchell controlled it and sprinted right through the middle of Drexel’s defense. Mitchell wound up and rifled one past the shoulder of Drexel goalkeeper Ross Blumenthal to get Stony Brook on the board.

Just two minutes later, midfielder Matt Anderson found attackman Jonathan Huber lined up on the goal crease. Anderson hit him with a perfectly-placed pass above his head, and Huber swung it past Blumenthal to tie the game. Less than a minute later, the Seawolves kept rolling on a very similar play when midfielder Will Button scored on a catch-and-shoot feed from midfielder Caleb Pearson.

Now leading for the first time, Stony Brook put its foot on the gas. Huber scored again with 4:31 left in the first quarter to double the team’s lead. Attackman Blake Behlen joined the scoring party just 29 seconds later to make it 5-2 Stony Brook.

The Seawolves suffocated Drexel on defense, giving themselves an opportunity for one more score in the opening frame. Midfielder Noah Armitage scored with just 55 seconds left in the quarter off another assist from Anderson to give Stony Brook a 6-2 lead.

The Seawolves kicked off the second quarter just as they ended the first. Huber completed a hat trick just over one minute into the frame. Just past the 10-minute mark, attackman Richie Dechiaro swung his stick around a Dragon defender and scored his third goal of the season. Around a minute and a half later, Button gave the ball to Armitage who was standing behind the net to set up a give-and-go play. Button cut towards the crease and Armitage fed him perfectly, allowing him to successfully convert the possession into another score.

Behlen capped off the 10-0 run with his second unassisted goal of the night with 3:49 left in the first half.

Drexel midfielder Luke Tomak scored two consecutive goals before the first half ended, but Stony Brook’s lead proved to be insurmountable.

Head coach Anthony Gilardi attributed the dominant run to the team’s preparation and makeup.

“We have a talented group, and we had a really good week of practice …” Gilardi said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “[Drexel] was a super talented offensive team. We challenged our guys to come out hot. We knew that it’s an emotional game on relatively short rest and we knew that we had to come out hot.”

Stony Brook put the game away at the start of the third quarter by scoring three-straight goals to take a 13-4 lead with 9:45 left in the period. The Seawolves ran out of gas on offense, as they were held scoreless for the entire rest of the game. However, Drexel only made up two-third of the ground that it needed to cover, and Stony Brook picked up its first-ever playoff win in the CAA.

From a statistical standpoint, Drexel outplayed Stony Brook. Due to the poor offensive finish by Stony Brook, Drexel generated more opportunities. The Dragons attempted 46 shots to the Seawolves’ 42 and landed 25 of them on cage. However, goalkeeper Jamison MacLachlan had an elite night in the cage, saving 15 of those shots, good for a 60% save percentage.

Drexel also won the possession battle. Both teams committed 16 turnovers, but the Dragons won 18 of the 26 faceoffs and scooped up seven more ground balls (30) than Stony Brook (23). Even on clears, Drexel was successful 100% of the time compared to Stony Brook’s 90.9%. If it were not for MacLachlan’s performance, the scoreless finish may have cost the Seawolves their season.

Huber scored five goals to lead Stony Brook while also tying his season high. He also scored five goals against Drexel in the regular season.

Button racked up four points with two goals and two assists. Behlen scored three points with two goals and an assist. Armitage also added three points by scoring one goal and dishing out two assists. Midfielder Sean Carlo scored his fifth goal of the season during Stony Brook’s 3-0 run in the third quarter.

Anderson had two assists to co-lead the team with Button and Armitage. Defender Riley Hegarty also contributed an assist.

Defender Sean Conk led the team with three caused turnovers. Long stick midfielder Christian Lowd caused two turnovers and picked up four ground balls. Defensive midfielder David Miele-Estrella also scooped up four ground balls to co-lead the team alongside Lowd. Hegarty and Mitchell both scooped up three each.

The Seawolves will now turn their attention to the tournament hosts and the top seed in the conference: the No. 19 Delaware Blue Hens. The Blue Hens defeated the fourth-seeded Towson Tigers 11-8 on Thursday and are 11-4 on the season. Opening faceoff for the 2023 CAA championship game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

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