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It’s official: nothing can slow down the unstoppable Ellie Masera

Midfielder Ellie Masera (12) carries the ball down the field in practice on Friday, Jan. 26. Masera is one of the greatest players in program history and is entering her final season. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

After just three years, midfielder Ellie Masera has already become one of the greatest athletes in Stony Brook University’s history. However, the local product from Eastport, N.Y. did not reach her All-American status without a handful of barriers in the way.

Last season, Masera had the sixth most goals in the nation (71) and led the team to its first-ever Colonial — now Coastal — Athletic Association (CAA) title. In Stony Brook’s first season in the new conference, she won the 2023 CAA Midfielder of the Year award and naturally earned a spot on the 2023 All-CAA First Team.

In three seasons, Masera has become the Seawolves’ eighth all-time leading goalscorer with 155, placing her just two behind teammate — attacker Kailyn Hart — for seventh. She is also just 17 assists away from moving into the program’s top 10. The whole CAA expects her to continue her dominance, as she was tabbed the 2024 CAA Preseason Player of the Year.

Entering the final year of her career, Masera is hungrier than ever.

“The goal is to win the CAA and then make it to the NCAA championship and win it,” Masera said in an interview with The Statesman. “I want it for my team, I want it for my family, I want it for myself, I just want it.”

Masera has been selected as a First Team All-American twice and has helped Stony Brook make a pair of deep runs in the NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament. She has improved exponentially from year to year after starting her career as a role player off the bench as a freshman.

In 2021, Masera scored 17 goals in 18 games, starting only three of them. To her peers, she was one of the best first-year players in the America East Conference (AE), earning her a spot on the league’s All-Rookie Team.

By her standards, she was horrible.

“I went home after my freshman year and I was like, ‘That can never happen again; I was embarrassed,’” Masera said. “I started working with my trainer and I did footwork, strength training and speed work and I just gained confidence.”

Her hard work and extra motivation paid off, turning her into the best player at her position in the AE by her sophomore season. However, that same year, she learned what true adversity is.

Masera grew up without grandparents, as they all passed away during her early years. In place of them, Masera’s great-uncle stepped into the grandfather role for her and the two formed a close bond. Unfortunately, right before an away game at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Lowell on April 16, 2022, Masera was told that her great-uncle passed away.

The very next day — which happened to be Easter Sunday — her house burned down. The disaster forced Masera to miss her great-uncle’s funeral.

Masera’s adversity shocked her, but it did not affect her performance. In fact, it motivated her. Playing with a heavy heart at UMass Lowell, she scored four goals and guided Stony Brook to a 16-1 win. Two days after the Easter from Hell, Masera drove up to Binghamton and scored six goals to spearhead an 18-3 trouncing.

Had it not been for her teammates’ and coaches’ unrelenting love and support, the emotional recovery may have been much more difficult for Masera.

“That was definitely tough,” Masera said. “The girls around me being really supportive, I think that was the biggest thing for me. Just having my friends there. Having the coaches say, ‘Whatever you need, please do,’ really helped.”

Over the final three games of the 2022 regular season, Masera totaled eight goals and seven assists. On May 4, she was named the 2022 AE Midfielder of the Year and selected to the 2022 All-AE First Team.

However, four days later, the streak of tragedies against Masera’s family continued. Her uncle, Scott Huff, died of brain cancer. Masera was close to Huff and his children Ryan, Kelsey and Kaeli — the latter of which played alongside her in 2021. She referred to him as a “second father.”

The news was broken to her by her father, Ronald, who pulled her out of the team’s viewing party of the NCAA selections show to inform her. Five days after her uncle’s death, she honored him with a five-goal, one-assist performance in a 16-4 win over Drexel in the opening round of the 2022 NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament.

When Masera took the field that day, she was playing for more than just herself.

“The biggest thing for me was to control the controllable, so I could control playing in a game and I wanted to play for my uncle and my great-uncle who passed away,” Masera said. “I wanted to play for my family who was going through a terrible time. I think that was the biggest thing to just keep me going.”

After that, Masera officially outlasted her string of personal bad luck. She led the team to a second-round victory over Rutgers just two days after the Drexel win. Her emotional rollercoaster of a sophomore year finally came to an end in an 8-5 loss to the eventual national champions — the University of North Carolina — on May 19, 2022.

One week later, Masera became the first undergraduate in program history to earn a First Team All-American selection.

Though she has now reached national recognition, Masera has always been a star on Long Island. She was destined to be a lacrosse star, as she came from a huge lacrosse family. Masera’s mother, Susan, has five siblings who played lacrosse.

All three of Masera’s sisters (Emily, Allie and Caitlin) play lacrosse along with her three aforementioned cousins. Allie is currently a sophomore midfielder on Stony Brook’s roster. 

Though Masera’s father has a hockey background, he became her first coach, signing her up to play in the Police Athletic League at the age of five. It was during Masera’s first team practice that she realized she loved the sport.

“I vividly remember my first lacrosse practice,” Masera said. “I showed up to this practice and I grabbed onto my dad’s leg and I was like, ‘I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to play, I hate lacrosse.’ Then all of a sudden it flipped and I was like, ‘Wait, this is actually really fun.’” 

Once Masera reached Eastport-South Manor (ESM) High School, she became a two-sport star. On the lacrosse field, she won three Suffolk County championships and was an Under Armour All-American selection in 2020.

She also played four years on ESM’s girl’s varsity field hockey team, making an appearance on Newsday’s Top 10 Players to Watch for 2019 list. She was named the 2017 Suffolk County Rookie of the Year and earned two All-County selections as a field hockey player.

Despite her success in field hockey, her love for lacrosse was far too strong, as she knew that she wanted to play NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse from the time she was 10 years old. Once she met head coach Joe Spallina in ninth grade, her decision was finalized.

Spallina offered Masera a scholarship in February 2017. Knowing that her family could come and watch her play if she were to play on Long Island, she accepted the offer on March 4 of that year.

Spallina is not only glad that she made that decision, but that she has developed into the stalwart she is today.

“She’s one of the best players in the country, not just on her team,” Spallina said in an interview with The Statesman. “Very, very proud of her journey. She’s small in stature but has the heart of a lion. I think the true mark of a superstar is raising the level of other players around her, and I think you saw that growth in her game last year.”

Knowing that this is her last year of collegiate lacrosse, Masera hopes to get drafted in the summer and play professionally. After her playing days end — whenever that may be — she wants to coach. She also plans to pursue a physician assistant master’s degree. 

Masera’s final quest for a national title begins on Sunday, Feb. 18 when the Seawolves host Dartmouth at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

Alex Streinger also contributed reporting.

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