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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


No. 14 Stony Brook women’s lacrosse seeks back-to-back CAA championships

Players from the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team celebrate a goal in their semifinal victory over Elon on Thursday, May 2. The Seawolves will now square off against Drexel with the CAA Championship on the line at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Saturday. IRENE YIMMONGKOL/THE STATESMAN

After a dominant semifinal victory, the No. 14 Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team is one win away from a second-straight Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) title and an automatic bid to the 2024 NCAA tournament.

The first-seeded Seawolves’ (16-2, 8-0 CAA) 17-4 triumph over Elon on Thursday propelled them to yet another conference championship game. On Saturday, Stony Brook will take on the second-seeded Drexel Dragons (13-4, 7-1 CAA) — who took down Hofstra 18-9 in the other semifinal contest — at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, where it will have an opportunity to win the CAA title in front of its home crowd.

When the teams matched up earlier this season, the Seawolves defeated Drexel 18-11. Opening draw for their rematch is set for 12:30 p.m.

The Dragons’ biggest stars play on opposite sides of the field. On one end, 2024 CAA Goalkeeper of the Year Jenika Cuocco — who won the award for a second consecutive time — minds the net for Drexel. Conversely, back-to-back CAA Attacker of the Year honoree Corinne Bednarik spearheads its offense.

Cuocco — who was also selected to the 2024 All-CAA First Team — leads the conference and is second in the nation in both save percentage (.574) and saves per game (11.65). She is also proficient on the ground, as Cuocco leads her team with 36 ground balls and is ninth in the conference with 2.12 ground balls per game.

Cuocco serves as the last line of defense for a Dragons endline that allows 8.74 goals per game, which is the second-best mark in the league. Drexel’s solid defense is also in large part due to defender Belle McHugh. The All-CAA First Team selectee has caused 19 turnovers and picked up 28 ground balls this year.

Other starters on the Dragons’ endline complementing McHugh include defenders Camryn Ryan, Maddie White and Alli VanSlyke. Ryan leads her team with 21 caused turnovers and has also scooped up 22 ground balls. She is ninth in the CAA with 1.24 caused turnovers per game. The duo of White and VanSlyke have combined for 21 caused turnovers and 53 ground balls.

In its past nine games, Drexel has employed a five-defender scheme with defender Caroline Johnston serving as another presence on its starting endline. She has posted seven caused turnovers and 13 ground balls this season.

All five of them will need to show up on Saturday if the Dragons want to become CAA champions for a second time in program history, as they will face a dynamic Stony Brook attack. The Seawolves’ 16.11 goals per game lead the conference and rank eighth in the nation.

Stony Brook’s offense is led by the tandem of midfielder Ellie Masera and attacker Kailyn Hart, who were both selected to the All-CAA First Team. Masera — who was also named 2024 CAA Midfielder of the Year — has tallied 66 goals and 35 assists this year. She ranks first in the league and fifth in the nation with 4.13 goals per game. Masera is also fourth in the CAA with 2.19 assists per game.

Hart has matched Masera’s goal total with 66 tallies of her own and has dished out 16 assists. She is second in the conference with 3.88 goals per game.

The team’s primary facilitator is attacker Alex Finn. In her first and only season as a Seawolf, Finn has orchestrated the team’s attack from the X. She has put up a CAA-leading 52 assists with 29 goals to boot. Finn ranks first in the league and joint eighth in the nation with 2.94 assists per game. She also received an All-CAA First Team nod.

Midfielders Charlotte Verhulst and Jaden Hampel — who are both 2024 All-CAA Second Team members — are other weapons on Stony Brook’s offense. Verhulst has started and played in every game this year, tallying 39 goals and 15 assists.

Despite missing the first three games of the season, Hampel has still posted 12 goals and six assists. Another player that has missed some time is attacker Morgan Mitchell. Nonetheless, she has posted 12 goals and eight assists.

Attacker Courtney Maclay is a reliable scorer off the bench, as she has netted 13 goals to go with three assists. However, Maclay has missed the last two contests, leaving her status as questionable for the title game.

Midfielder Isabella Caporuscio earned 2024 CAA All-Rookie Team honors this year. She has notched nine goals and three assists.

Although Drexel’s attack does not have the same firepower as the Seawolves’, it is still competent in its own right. Led by Bednarik — who is another All-CAA First Team selectee — the Dragons score 12.53 goals per game, which puts them just behind Stony Brook in the CAA leaderboard.

Bednarik has posted 56 goals and 41 assists this season. She ranks third in the conference in both goals per game (3.29) and assists per game (2.41).

Attacker Allison Drake is another crucial piece of Drexel’s offense. Mostly coming off the bench, the All-CAA Second Team honoree has scored 37 goals alongside five assists. Another player that begins games on the sideline for the Dragons is midfielder Maddie Fowler. She has tallied 13 goals and six assists this year.

Attackers Kate Marano and Bea Buckley are dual-threat weapons for Drexel. The duo has combined for 28 goals and 31 assists. Buckley and midfielder Ellie Wall were named to the CAA All-Rookie Team. Wall has scored 14 times this season off the bench.

Midfielder Alex Wall — Ellie’s sister — has tallied 23 goals and two assists. Rounding out the double-digit goalscorers for the Dragons, midfielder Molly Weygand has scored 16 times and dished out two assists, while attacker Anna Maria Gragnani has buried 14 goals. Both start on Drexel’s attack.

Both teams play a relatively clean style of lacrosse. Stony Brook commits the second-fewest turnovers per game (11.72) in the league. Similarly, the Dragons cough up the ball the third-fewest times per game in the CAA (13.65).

While Drexel’s defense does not excel at causing turnovers — as it is sixth in the conference with 7.18 caused turnovers per game — the Seawolves’ endline does. Stony Brook causes 9.71 turnovers per game, which is the third most in the league.

Defender Avery Hines — an All-CAA First Team member — accounts for nearly one third of that number. As the anchor of the best defense in the CAA and the fifth-ranked scoring defense in the nation, Hines has caused 55 turnovers alongside 36 ground balls, helping the Seawolves limit their opponents to just 7.87 goals per game. She is second in the conference and fourth in the nation with 3.06 caused turnovers per game.

Defender Clare Levy — who was named to the All-CAA Second Team — is Stony Brook’s engine. She has caused 10 turnovers and scooped up 29 ground balls this year. Levy is integral to the Seawolves’ draw unit as well, as she has controlled 49 draws. Levy can also chip in on offense, as she has scored eight goals and recorded five assists this season.

Defenders McKenzie Mitchell and Rachel Rosenberg are likely to start alongside Hines and Levy on Stony Brook’s defense. They have combined for 22 caused turnovers and 22 ground balls. Defender Jordan Forte is another contributor on that end of the field. She has posted three caused turnovers and 12 ground balls.

Midfielders Erin MacQuarrie and Alexandra Fusco are two-way players for the Seawolves. In 18 starts for Stony Brook, MacQuarrie has put up 11 caused turnovers, 27 ground balls, six goals and seven assists. Mainly off the bench, Fusco has had 10 caused turnovers, 17 ground balls, eight goals and five assists.

Goalkeeper Aaliyah Jones is expected to be in the cage for the Seawolves. She is seventh in the league in save percentage (.438) on few opportunities, as she makes just 2.33 saves per game.

Stony Brook has the edge on the Dragons in the center circle. The Seawolves’ .578 draw percentage tops Drexel’s .481 mark.

Masera headlines Stony Brook’s draw unit. She has controlled 134 draws this season, ranking second in the CAA and ninth in the nation with 8.38 draw controls per game. Conversely, Bednarik and Gragnani are the Dragons’ top performers on draws.

Bednarik has controlled 66 draws and Gragnani has accumulated 64 draw controls. The former is seventh in the conference with 3.88 draw controls per game while the latter ranks ninth with 3.76 draw controls per game.

If the Seawolves come out on top on Saturday, it would mark their 11th-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under 2024 CAA Coach of the Year Joe Spallina.

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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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