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Stony Brook men’s lacrosse set to challenge the CAA’s top dog

Midfielder Will Button (9) passes the ball to attackman Dylan Pallonetti (34) against Drexel on Saturday, April 6. The two will be crucial for the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team’s offense against the best defense in the conference. STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

With its Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) championship chances at large, the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team will face its biggest test of the conference season.

The Seawolves (4-7, 2-2 CAA) will have a chance to solidify themselves in the playoff race when hitting the road to face the Delaware Blue Hens (6-3, 4-0 CAA) on Saturday. The two sides most recently met in last year’s CAA title game, where Delaware defeated Stony Brook 13-10 to earn an automatic bid to the 2023 NCAA tournament. Opening faceoff is set for noon.

The Seawolves’ offense has been solid this season. Stony Brook ranks third in the conference in goals (12.27) and shots per game (40.73). 

Attackman Dylan Pallonetti spearheads the attacking charge, as his 38 goals leads the league. He ranks joint third in the nation with 3.45 goals per game and has also dished out nine assists. 

Flanking Pallonetti is attackman Nick Dupuis, who has been the setup man for the Seawolves. His 40 assists places him first in the CAA and second in the nation. Dupuis has also contributed in the goalscoring department with 15 goals, which is good for third on the team.

Attackman Justin Bonacci has also added juice to Stony Brook’s offense, as he has tallied 14 goals and three assists. The only other double-digit scorers for the Seawolves are midfielders Noah Armitage and Jack Dougherty, who have netted 17 and 14 goals, respectively, alongside three assists apiece.

The Seawolves’ offense will have their hands full against the best defense in the conference. The Blue Hens only concede 8.44 goals per game, which is the second fewest in the nation and best mark in the league.

Although Delaware’s clear percentage of .866 is not particularly impressive, it remedies that by causing turnovers. The Blue Hens are third in the CAA in caused turnovers per game (8.1) and are also proficient on the ground, as their 31.67 ground balls per game puts them at second in the conference.

Following the graduation of Owen Grant — the 2023 CAA Defensive Player of the Year — defenders Tate Wasson, Matt Montgomery and Louie Atkinson makeup Delaware’s starting endline. The trio have combined for 14 caused turnovers and 29 ground balls.

Long stick midfielder Joe Speers has been the best playmaker on that side of the field for the Blue Hens while coming off the bench. He leads his team with 12 caused turnovers, and his 1.33 caused turnovers per game is good for fifth in the league. He has also picked up 25 ground balls, which is second on Delaware. 

Another crucial piece of the Blue Hens’ defense is short-stick defensive midfielder Reed Kurtz.  He has caused five turnovers and scooped up 11 ground balls.

Goalkeeper Kevin Ellington has played a significant role in the success of Delaware’s endline. In his first season as his team’s de facto starter, Ellington ranks first in the CAA in save percentage (.596) and goals against average (8.65). He is also second in saves per game (12.11) in the conference.

Conversely, Stony Brook’s goalkeeping situation has not been as smooth as the Blue Hens’. In the battle for the spot, goalkeeper Tommy Wilk seems to have pulled away from his counterpart, Jamison MacLachlan. 

Wilk is second in the league in save percentage (.559) and fourth in saves per game (10.90). 

He does not have as good of a supporting cast as Ellington, as the Seawolves have been a middle-of-the-road team defensively. Stony Brook allows 11.08 goals per game, which puts it in fourth in the CAA.

The Seawolves have been solid on the ground, as their 31.55 ground balls per game ranks third in the conference. However, they have not been able to cause turnovers at a high rate. Stony Brook is sixth in the league with 6.82 caused turnovers per game. It has also been poor on the clear game with an .846 percentage. 

Still, the Seawolves’ defense employs talented pieces. Defender Mikey Sabella leads the team with 15 caused turnovers and is third in the CAA with 1.36 caused turnovers per game. He has also picked up 22 ground balls.

Rounding out the starters on Stony Brook’s endline are defenders Carson Forney and Sean Conk. Forney has caused eight turnovers and scooped up 22 ground balls. Conk has been less productive with a pair of caused turnovers and six ground balls.

Long stick midfielder Christian Lowd has been integral to the Seawolves’ success on that end of the field. He has caused 12 turnovers and picked up 32 ground balls. Lowd’s 1.09 caused turnovers per game is 10th in the conference.

Other defensive contributors for the Seawolves from the midfield are defensive midfielder Ben Morschauser and midfielder Garrett Gibbons. They have combined for 13 caused turnovers and 48 ground balls.

Delaware’s offense will undoubtedly give Stony Brook trouble. It is second in the league with 13.22 goals per game and first in shots per game (45.89).

The tandem of attackmen J.P. Ward and Mike Robinson spearhead the Blue Hens’ offense. Ward has tallied 18 goals and 20 assists this year. He is ninth in the CAA in goals per game (two) and second in assists per game (2.22).

Robinson has posted 24 goals and 11 assists. He is third in the conference with 2.67 goals per game. 

First-year attackman John McCurry has made an immediate impact for Delaware. He has scored 19 goals and dished out four assists. McCurry’s 2.11 goals per game places him seventh in the league.

The Blue Hens have two more players that have reached double-digit scoring numbers: midfielders Cam Acchione and Brendan Powers. Acchione has 12 goals alongside seven assists, while Powers has put up 13 goals to go with five assists.

Delaware has the edge on the Seawolves in the center circle. Faceoff specialist O.J. Morris has been on point for the Blue Hens this season. He is first in the CAA with a .606 faceoff percentage and has scooped up 39 ground balls. Morris’ 4.88 ground balls per game is fourth in the conference.

However, Delaware’s faceoff percentage drops to .509 as a whole, which is only good for fourth in the league. Still, it outranks Stony Brook’s seventh placement. It has a .455 faceoff percentage.

Faceoff specialist Chris Esposito has been the team’s constant in the circle. He is eighth in the CAA with a .463 faceoff percentage. Esposito has picked up 42 ground balls and is seventh in the conference with 3.82 ground balls per game.

A monumental upset for the Seawolves could be what it takes to turn their disappointing season thus far around, all while gaining ground on the CAA’s standings.

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