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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Successful first year in CAA has Stony Brook men’s lacrosse trending upwards

Attackman Dylan Pallonetti (center) fires a shot against Fairfield on Saturday, April 22. Pallonetti led the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team with 70 points, guiding it to the 2023 CAA championship game. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

After spending 21 seasons in the America East Conference (AE), the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team made its debut in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) this past spring. Coming into the 2023 season, the Seawolves picked up where they left off the year before: receiving votes on the Inside Lacrosse national rankings poll. In regards to its own conference, Stony Brook was picked to make the CAA postseason tournament by placing fourth in the preseason poll.

Though the Seawolves fell short of their national expectations, their high-powered offense allowed them to surprise the rest of the CAA and make it to the championship game. Their season came to an end that day when they lost 13-10 to the No. 19 Delaware Blue Hens, who advanced to their second consecutive NCAA tournament. They finished the 2023 season 9-7 overall and 5-2 in conference play, which was good for third place in the CAA.

Stony Brook’s strength was its offense, which finished second in goals per game (13.06) and third in assists per game (6.94) in the CAA. The Seawolves also scored the second-most man-up goals in the conference with 19, trailing only Delaware. They also committed the second-fewest turnovers per game in the CAA with 14.94 per game.

After going just 3-4 in the nonconference half of its schedule, Stony Brook averaged 14 goals per game once conference play rolled around, allowing it to stroll into the playoffs in its first-ever season in the CAA. After clinching the postseason berth, the offense displayed another impressive feat of strength in the semifinal of the 2023 CAA men’s lacrosse tournament against Drexel. The Seawolves scored 10 unanswered goals and 13 of the next 15 to put the game out of reach early, sending them to the conference championship game with a 13-10 victory.

Head coach Anthony Gilardi credits the offensive success to the players’ dedication to the program.

“I think those guys did a really good job buying into our plan,” Gilardi said in an interview with The Statesman. “We have talented kids; there’s no doubt about that. You’re only as good as the coaches and players you have. When they buy in, they play hard and they practice hard, good things can happen.”

Stony Brook was led by attackman Dylan Pallonetti, who had a phenomenal season that earned him a selection to the 2023 All-CAA First Team. He scored in every game except for the playoff game versus Drexel, which was the first time he had ever been held scoreless for a game in his whole career. He totaled 51 goals and averaged 3.19 per game, which wound up being the 10th-best figure in the nation. He finished second in the CAA in goals and tied for seventh in assists with 19.

Pallonetti gave his fellow Seawolves the credit for his elite offensive season.

“That’s just a credit to my teammates,” Pallonetti said. “We’re all just working together out there, doing one-sixth of the job. It could be anyone’s day. I guess for me, the ball found the back of the net a lot.”

Other players on Stony Brook’s vaunted offense also received recognition for their play. Midfielder Matt Anderson had a big final season in the NCAA, scoring 29 goals and dishing out 16 assists. He was tied for 10th in the CAA in goals and ninth in assists. He earned a First Team All-CAA selection alongside Pallonetti.

“Matt Anderson’s another guy who’s one of the best middies in the country; I’ve been saying that for two years now,” Gilardi said. “He really stepped up here at the end of the season and put the team on his back for stretches.”

Anderson, a fifth-year player, has run out of eligibility and will now leave Stony Brook after two All-Conference selections and 119 total points scored in his time with the team. As one of the best dodging midfielders in the nation, the Seawolves will miss him and the plays he makes for the offense.

Gilardi said that there is no clear-cut replacement on the roster for Anderson.

“I don’t think that’s going to be a one-guy thing,” Gilardi said. “I think Matt was, at times, unguardable. When we needed plays, with him on the wing, we knew he was going to get separation, get to the cage or make something happen. It’s definitely going to be a replace by committee as opposed to plug-and-play.”

Sharing the midfield with Anderson was midfielder Noah Armitage, who also earned All-CAA First Team honors. His 19 assists tied him with Pallonetti for seventh most in the conference, while his 26 goals were the fourth-most on the team. Armitage’s 45 points put him into a four-way tie for eighth-most in the conference. His 45 points also put him into a three-way tie for second-most on the team, alongside attackman Blake Behlen and Anderson.

Gilardi gushed over the job that Armitage did for the team this past season.

“I think every year he’s gotten a little bit better,” Gilardi said. “He’s really developed as a leader, and the guys look up to him. He’s a hard worker; he’s always in the office watching extra film, trying to figure out ways to run the offense. While he did have 45 points, he did a lot of the little things too that helped our guys go.”

Other frequent contributors to the offense were Behlen and attackman Jonathan Huber. After transferring in from Long Island University, Behlen scored 23 goals while also leading the team with 22 assists. He finished the season with the third-most assists in the CAA. Behlen also showed off his versatility by playing both on the attack and at midfield.

Playing with his third team in the last four years, Behlen feels he has finally found a home with Stony Brook.

“My first year with Stony Brook was awesome,” Behlen said. “I’ve seen growths in my game, I’ve seen growths in my IQ in the game, too. Once things started falling in and everything was catching on, it was really fun to play. This system is awesome.”

Coming off his senior season, Behlen confidently confirmed that he will be returning to the Seawolves for his fifth and final NCAA season next year.

Huber was another transfer portal acquisition after spending the previous four years with St. John’s. In his only season with Stony Brook, he scored 33 goals, which was second only to Pallonetti. He was tied with Drexel attackman Sean Donnelly for the fifth-most goals in the CAA.

Midfielder Will Button was also valuable to Stony Brook’s offense. The senior broke out this year, scoring 18 goals and adding 10 assists as the Seawolves’ sixth scoring option.

The more surprising aspect of Stony Brook’s game this year was its defense. Not typically a strength in years past, the Seawolves’ defense got continuously better throughout the year. The unit finished fourth in the CAA in goals against average (11.46) and third in ground balls per game (31.69). The team also had the best penalty-kill unit in the conference by far, stopping 82.7% of its opponents’ man-up opportunities.

Gilardi feels that the defense is in a better place today than it was at the start of the season.

“I think we definitely took a step forward,” Gilardi said. “I think we were dealt a tough hand defensively. There was a stretch where our four starting defensive midfielders were all hurt. It’s tough to play defense when you’re not practicing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a position get banged up the way that position did this year. So I’m proud of those guys.”

The brightest stars of Stony Brook’s defense were long stick midfielder Christian Lowd and defender Mikey Sabella. Lowd was selected to the All-CAA First Team for his efforts this year, as he scooped up 63 ground balls and caused 30 turnovers. He ranked third in the conference in both caused turnovers and caused turnovers per game (1.88). Sabella scooped up 46 ground balls this year, which was the most by a Stony Brook defender, and caused 18 turnovers, tying him for eighth-most in the conference.

Gilardi was also complimentary of defender Sean Conk, calling him the “quarterback of the defense.” Freshman defender Michael DeSano also made his presence felt by the rest of the conference this year, as he was selected to the 2023 CAA All-Rookie Team for his efforts. DeSano scooped up 17 ground balls and caused three turnovers in just 12 games played.

Even with the improvements, the defense did have its issues. The penalty-kill unit had to be as strong as it was due to extreme lack of discipline, as Stony Brook committed the most penalties (81) and spent the most time in the penalty box (59 minutes) in the conference by wide margins. Also, the team struggled to generate takeaways, as it caused the fewest turnovers per game (6.56) in the CAA.

The Seawolves also struggled in the faceoff X, winning only 47.1% of their opportunities. Mixing that with the fact that they seldom took the ball away allowed their opponents to generate plenty of opportunities. Stony Brook’s opponents landed 382 shots on cage, which was the second-most in the conference, only trailing last-place Hampton. Despite allowing these frequent scoring chances, Stony Brook was largely unaffected due to the strong play from goalkeeper Jamison MacLachlan.

MacLachlan improved significantly throughout the season and dominated in conference games, becoming one of the premier players at his position in the CAA. He started all 16 games for the Seawolves and led the conference in saves (195) and saves per game (12.19). His 52.0% save percentage ranked second in the CAA, just behind Delaware goalkeeper Matt Kilkeary.

MacLachlan feels as though his support system — such as associate head coach J.P. Brazel and his defensive teammates — helped him break out as a sophomore this past spring.

“I feel like my goalie coach, Coach Brazel, is one of the best out there,” MacLachlan said. “Everything we do everyday helps me in game. That, combined with our defense giving up the shots I want to see, really boosted my confidence. It made it easier on me. I wasn’t nervous … I was able to find my groove.”

MacLachlan also showed a flair for the dramatic, as he played some of his best games against some of the best opponents. On opening day at No. 9/10 Rutgers, MacLachlan made a career-high 23 saves in 34 chances. In a battle against first-place Delaware on April 15, MacLachlan turned away 15 of the 27 shots he faced. In the final two regular season games — both of which were must-win games — MacLachlan stoned over 50% of the shots that came his way.

Those big-game performances did not vanish in the postseason. In the conference semifinal against Drexel, MachLachlan saved 60% (15-of-25) of the shots that he saw. In the championship game versus Delaware, he stopped 14 of the Blue Hens’ 27 shots on goal. Overall, MacLachlan saved more than half of the shots he faced in 10 of his 16 games.

It was performances like those on the grandest stages that garnered MacLachlan loads of trust from his head coach.

“We’re excited about him,” Gilardi said. “There’s not a spot on the field that Jamo struggles with. To know you have a guy like that coming back, as a coach, makes you able to go to bed at night.”

Now with their attention turned to next season, the Seawolves have an opportunity to keep improving. They return most of their key players, and that continuity may help them get over the hump. However, they are losing several key players.

Other than Anderson and Huber, who are out of eligibility, several other players are leaving as well. Defensive midfielder David Miele-Estrella and midfielder Caleb Pearson were team co-captains this year, and both have also run out of eligibility and graduated. Faceoff specialist Renz Conlon has also graduated after completing his sixth year in the NCAA. He won 53.4% of his faceoff opportunities this past year, which was the fifth-best mark in the CAA. He also scored four goals, and had his best game in the championship, where he won 17 of his 20 opportunities.

Despite these losses, Stony Brook is retaining Pallonetti, Behlen, Button, Lowd and Sabella, who are all returning for their fifth year of eligibility. Gilardi also confirmed that none of the other key players have put their names in the transfer portal.

With most of the core still intact, Huber believes that Stony Brook has the right pieces in place for a championship run next year.

“I think they’re moving in the right direction,” Huber said. “It’s the standard now to go to the CAA [championship], and the next step is just winning it.”

In order to bring home the conference title, Behlen believes Stony Brook just has to play its brand of lacrosse.

“We know we have the tools, and we need to play to our standard instead of the other team’s standard,” Behlen said. “Once we do that, we’ll be able to keep the momentum and just keep flowing as a team, and I don’t think that many people can stop us in the CAA when we’re flowing.”

Nayden Villorente, Matt Howlin, Kenny Spurrell and Cameron Takmil all contributed reporting.

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About the Contributor
Mike Anderson, Sports Editor
Mike Anderson is the Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a senior majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports comes from his time spent as a baseball player. As a reporter for The Statesman, he has covered baseball, softball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men's and women's lacrosse, women's volleyball and hockey. He has also interned at Axcess Sports as a high school and college baseball and softball reporter. He is a local product from Port Jefferson, N.Y. and is a diehard Mets, Jets, Nets and Islanders fan.
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