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Stony Brook men’s lacrosse opens season with high-scoring comeback at Sacred Heart

Attackman Nick Dupuis (left) tries to shoot over goalkeeper Jamison MacLachlan (right) on Wednesday, Jan. 24. The two players were instrumental in the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team’s win on Sunday. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

After a long offseason, Stony Brook’s men’s lacrosse team opened its 2024 campaign with an encouraging performance.

The Seawolves (1-0) fought hard and came back to defeat the Sacred Heart Pioneers (0-1) 17-14 in Connecticut on Sunday. It was not an easy task, as Stony Brook had to overcome struggles in the faceoff circle and a bad second quarter to earn the victory.

Through the first 10 and a half minutes, goals from midfielder Jack Dougherty and attackmen Dylan Pallonetti and Nick Dupuis gave the Seawolves a 3-1 lead. However, an unassisted goal from Sacred Heart attackman Will Moulton flipped the momentum in the wrong direction for Stony Brook.

During the first minute of the second quarter, the Pioneers tied the game with a goal from attackman Sal Miccio off a find from fellow attackman Carson Spooner. Just 47 seconds later, midfielder Noah Armitage put Stony Brook back on top with his first goal of the year off an assist from attackman Blake Behlen. After briefly falling behind, Sacred Heart attackman Morgan O’Reilly took over and completed a first-half hat trick, scoring consecutive goals to give his team its first lead of the day.

The Pioneers kept rolling with eight minutes left until halftime when attackman Tucker Spencer ripped one past goalkeeper Jamison MacLachlan to make it 6-4. Attackman Justin Bonacci broke up the scoring streak with his first career goal off a feed from the X by Dupuis, but another pair of scores by Sacred Heart made it 8-5.

Pallonetti cut into the deficit with his second goal of the afternoon, but goals by Spooner and attackman Jake Ward in the final minute put the Pioneers up 10-6 going into halftime.

Three and a half minutes into the second half, Dupuis opened the scoring. After standing patiently in the X waiting for a teammate to get open, he took matters into his own hands and wrapped around the crease before diving as he ripped one into the back of the net.

Just 24 seconds later on an extra-man opportunity, Dougherty spotted Bonacci uncontested in front of the net and fed him. Bonacci fired it past Sacred Heart goalkeeper Alex Pazienza to cut the Seawolves’ deficit down to two. After another 33 seconds passed, Stony Brook made it a one-possession game when Dupuis set up Dougherty for his second goal of the day.

After finally cooling the Seawolves down, Miccio scored to double the lead. Afterwards, both goalies each made a big save to force over three minutes of scoreless action. With the third quarter winding down towards four minutes, Dupuis caught one from just behind the doorstep and fired past Pazienza’s leg to complete the hat trick.

Stony Brook’s defense held tight on the next possession, giving its offense a chance to tie. Dupuis tried to wrap around the cage and do it himself, but he was knocked down without a whistle, forcing a loose ball. After being poked around, Armitage scooped up the ground ball and fired a left-handed shot into the top left corner of the net to tie it up at 11 apiece.

With a brand new game in place, MacLachlan pulled off a pair of dramatic saves to keep it level going into the fourth quarter. In the opening minute of the final frame, another save by MacLachlan gave his teammates a shot to break the deadlock. Pallonetti brought the ball down the field and slowed the tempo down, taking matters into his own hands. He unleashed a lethal spin move towards the inside to dodge a defender, shook himself loose of another and rifled a left-handed shot from 10 yards out over Pazienza’s head to take the lead.

By completing the hat trick, Pallonetti gave his team the lead for good. Head coach Anthony Gilardi was thrilled with his team’s resilience after being outscored 8-3 in the second quarter.

“Really proud of the response out of halftime,” Gilardi said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “Disappointed with the second quarter and the first half issues at the face-off and [the] X, but we had a big response when we needed it in the second half.”

Within the next half-minute, Dupuis sat in the X and found midfielder Ryan Barker cutting towards the goal. Dupuis hit him perfectly in stride, allowing Barker to finish his first career goal and double the Seawolves’ lead. Over the following four minutes, Behlen and Dougherty padded the cushion with scores of their own to go up 15-11 with 8:44 left.

Just over a minute after Dougherty completed the hat trick, O’Reilly broke the scoring streak and tallied his fifth goal of the day. However, the Pioneers failed to spark a run of their own, as MacLachlan denied them on their next two possessions. With less than four and a half minutes to play, midfielder Collin Williamson scooped one underhanded and past Pazienza to answer O’Reilly’s score.

Just nine seconds later, Behlen put the game away with an extra-man goal. O’Reilly went on to score a pair of garbage time goals, giving him seven for the game and nine total points, but it was all for nothing.

Dupuis had a huge Stony Brook debut after not playing for almost two full years. He scored three goals and dished out five assists to lead his new squad. Pallonetti posted a signature hat trick and added an assist, while Dougherty did the same. However, it was much more special for Dougherty, as the sophomore did not score a point in just two appearances last year.

Behlen started on the midfield in place of an injured Will Button, who will be back for the next game. Behlen totaled four points with a pair of goals and two assists. Armitage added two goals and a helper.

Four different Seawolves (Dougherty, Bonacci, Barker and Williamson) all scored their first collegiate goals on Sunday. Defensive midfielder Garrett Gibbons also found the scoresheet in his Stony Brook debut with an assist on Behlen’s first goal.

Despite the win, the Seawolves were outdueled on the ground, in the faceoff circle and in the shot department. Sacred Heart picked up 33 ground balls, landed 30 shots on goal and won 21 of the 35 faceoffs (60%), compared to Stony Brook’s 28, 25 and 14 (40%), respectively.

Much of the win is due to MacLachlan’s performance in the cage. He saved 16 of the 30 shots he faced while also causing two turnovers and picking up three ground balls.

Defender Carson Forney co-led the team alongside MacLachlan with two takeaways. Gibbons, Bonacci, long stick midfielder Gerald Filardi Jr. and defender Mikey Sabella all caused one turnover apiece. Filardi Jr., Gibbons and Bonacci — three new additions to the team — each scooped up three ground balls, as well. Faceoff specialist Chris Esposito led the team with four ground balls but struggled with his main duty, winning only 13 of his 28 (46.4%) opportunities.

The Seawolves will now return to Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium for their home opener against the No. 14/15 Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Sunday. Opening faceoff is scheduled for noon.

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