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No. 14 Stony Brook women’s lacrosse takes on Elon in CAA semifinals

The Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team celebrates a goal against Stanford on Thursday, April 25. The Seawolves will begin their conference tournament journey against Elon in the semifinals on Thursday. GEORGE CARATZAS/THE STATESMAN

In its quest for an 11th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the No. 14 Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team will aim for back-to-back Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) titles.

Reaping the benefits of last season’s conference tournament win, the 2024 CAA women’s lacrosse tournament will run through Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium — the home of the first-seeded Seawolves (15-2, 8-0 CAA) led by 2024 CAA Coach of the Year Joe Spallina. First, the hosts will take on the fourth-seeded Elon Phoenix (9-7, 5-3 CAA) on Thursday. When the sides met earlier this year, Stony Brook came out on top in a dominant 18-6 victory. Opening draw is set for noon.

On paper, the only area where Elon poses a threat to the Seawolves is in the draw circle. The Phoenix’s .618 draw control percentage — which is the seventh-highest mark in the nation — trumps Stony Brook’s .579. 

First-year midfielder M.J. Santa Barbara headlines Elon’s draw unit. A 2024 All-CAA First Team selectee, the 2024 CAA Rookie of the Year and, consequently, a member of the 2024 CAA All-Rookie Team, she is first in the CAA and eighth in the nation with 9.06 draw controls per game. With 145 total draw controls, Santa Barbara has already broken the CAA single-season record. 

Conversely, midfielder Ellie Masera spearheads the Seawolves’ draw efforts, as she ranks second in the conference and ninth in the nation with 8.33 draw controls per game. 

Although she is one spot below Santa Barbara on both leaderboards, Masera got the best of her counterpart when the teams faced off on March 22. Masera finished with eight draw controls compared to Santa Barbara’s six. Overall, Stony Brook won the battle in the circle 14-13 in that contest.

Between the two, Masera is the far more prolific offensive player. She headlines the best attack in the league and the seventh-highest scoring offense in the nation — as the Seawolves score 16.06 goals per game — with 63 goals and 30 assists. Masera leads the CAA and is sixth in the nation with 4.20 goals per game. She is also fifth in the conference with two assists per game.

Despite missing a pair of games, Masera took home 2024 CAA Midfielder of the Year honors for a second-consecutive season. She was also selected to the All-CAA First Team.

Another Stony Brook representative on the All-CAA First Team is attacker Kailyn Hart. She has posted 59 goals and 15 assists. Hart is second in the league in goals per game (3.69). 

Rounding out the Seawolves’ explosive offensive trio is attacker Alex Finn. In her debut season with Stony Brook, Finn has served as the team’s main facilitator and also earned an All-CAA First Team nod. She has dished out 50 assists alongside 28 goals this year. Finn places first in the CAA and joint-eighth in the nation with 2.94 assists per game.

Another player that has been vital for the Seawolves in both their attack and draw unit is midfielder Charlotte Verhulst. As the team’s primary draw taker, Verhulst has controlled 54 draws. She has also already achieved single-season career-highs in goals (36) and assists (14). Verhulst was chosen to the 2024 All-CAA Second Team.

Attackers Morgan Mitchell and Courtney Maclay alongside midfielder Jaden Hampel are Stony Brook’s other consistent offensive weapons. The trio has combined for 36 goals and 17 assists. Although Mitchell and Hampel were more involved last year, they have upped their production as of late.

Mitchell has tallied three goals and three assists over the last two contests. Hampel is coming off an overtime winner against Stanford and has dished out four assists over the past five games. She joined Verhulst in the All-CAA Second Team.

Midfielder Isabella Caporuscio is the Seawolves’ most pertinent first-year player. She has posted nine goals and three assists and was selected to the CAA All-Rookie Team.

Stony Brook’s potent attack will be matched up with a below-average Elon defense. The Phoenix allow 12.67 goals per game, which is the fourth most in the conference.

Much of Elon’s struggles on that end of the field fall with goalkeeper Caitlin Walsh. She ranks ninth in the league in save percentage (.379) and fifth in saves per game (7.75).

Ahead of her, defenders Reagan Kuehn, Jessie Penner, Brooke Scheuermann and Kiley Selquist are likely to start in the Phoenix’s endline. Kuehn leads her team in both caused turnovers (23) and ground balls (34). She is sixth in the league with 1.44 caused turnovers per game and ninth with 2.13 ground balls per game.

The trio of Penner, Scheuermann and Selquist have combined for 28 caused turnovers and 43 ground balls.

Another crucial piece of Elon’s defense is midfielder Kailee Follette. She has caused 17 turnovers and picked up 28 ground balls this season. Follette also plays a notable role in the Phoenix’s draw unit, as she has controlled 51 draws.

Overall, Elon causes just 7.19 turnovers per game, which is the third fewest in the CAA. That does not bode well for it, as it will take on a Seawolves team that commits the least turnovers per game (11.65) in the conference.

The Phoenix are also dead last in the league in ground balls per game (13.69) while Stony Brook is sixth in the CAA with 15.12 per contest.

Just like their offense, the Seawolves’ defense is also the best in the conference, as they concede 8.09 goals per game. Stony Brook also possesses the fifth-best scoring defense in the nation.

Defenders Avery Hines and Clare Levy — All-CAA First Team and All-CAA Second Team honorees, respectively — anchor the Seawolves’ endline. However, the two play nearly opposite roles. Hines is the force on Stony Brook’s defense, as she leads the team in both caused turnovers (49) and ground balls (34) this year. Hines is second in the league and fourth in the nation with 2.88 caused turnovers per game.

Levy is the team’s most versatile weapon. She is the Seawolves’ top performer on clears, has caused nine turnovers and scooped up 26 ground balls this season. Additionally, Levy contributes in the draw unit and attack. She has controlled 49 draws and is 10th in the CAA with 3.50 controls per game. Levy has also tallied eight goals and four assists.

Defenders McKenzie Mitchell, Rachel Rosenberg and Jordan Forte have all received their fair share of starts on Stony Brook’s endline. They have combined for 23 caused turnovers and 31 ground balls.

Midfielders Erin MacQuarrie and Alexandra Fusco are two-way threats for the Seawolves. MacQuarrie has played and started in all 17 of Stony Brook’s contests and posted nine caused turnovers, 22 ground balls, six goals and six assists. Fusco has come off the bench mostly and put up nine caused turnovers, 17 ground balls, seven goals and four assists.

The Seawolves’ final line of defense will be between goalkeepers Aaliyah Jones and Emily Manning. The pair have struggled in the cage for Stony Brook, although Jones has fared better this year, as she is seventh in the conference with a .439 save percentage. Conversely, Manning is last out of all qualified goalkeepers in the league with a .358 mark.

Whoever starts, they will face a middle-of-the-road Elon offense. It sits fifth in the CAA with 11.81 goals per game. Despite not scoring as much as the Seawolves, the Phoenix’s attacking depth is up there with Stony Brook’s, as they have six double-digit goalscorers.

Midfielder Sammy Fisher is Elon’s leading scorer. She has tallied 36 goals alongside seven assists and was named to the All-CAA Second Team. Attacker Anna Hackett has posted 32 goals and five assists. However, after starting the first 14 games for the Phoenix, she has missed the previous two contests, leaving her status as questionable for Thursday.

Attacker Kaitlyn Michaud has also missed time this season but will be available to face the Seawolves. She has scored 28 times and dished out six assists. Michaud is eighth in the conference with 2.55 goals per game.

First-year midfielder Mia Zebley is a dual-threat option for Elon’s offense, as she has broken double-digits in goals (18) and assists (11). Attacker Ana Lee Vandiver is another weapon that has made an immediate impact for the Phoenix. After not playing last year as a first-year player, she has tallied 12 goals and six assists.

If Stony Brook overcomes Elon as it is expected to do, it will play for the CAA title and an automatic bid to the national tournament on Saturday against the winner of the other semifinal game — which will be contested between second-seeded Drexel and third-seeded Hofstra. Opening draw for the final is set for 12:30 p.m.

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About the Contributor
Alex Streinger
Alex Streinger, Assistant Sports Editor
Alex Streinger is an Assistant Sports Editor of The Statesman. He is a junior majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. He is the beat reporter of the Stony Brook men’s soccer and nationally-ranked women’s lacrosse teams. He interns at Movendi International, the largest independent global social movement for development through alcohol prevention.
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