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

Attacker Kailyn Hart drives the net against Elon on Thursday, May 2. Hart recorded a single-game career-best eight points and netted a single-game career-high-tying seven goals to lead the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team to the 2024 CAA Championship game. IRENE YIMMONGKOL/THE STATESMAN

A slow start did not phase the No. 14 Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team, as it posted a shutout in the second half to book a ticket to its second consecutive Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) Championship game.

Looking for a chance to repeat, the first-seeded Seawolves (16-2, 8-0 CAA) hosted the fourth-seeded Elon Phoenix (9-8, 5-3 CAA) at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Thursday for the semifinals of the 2024 CAA women’s lacrosse tournament. After allowing four goals in the first half, Stony Brook held Elon scoreless after halftime en route to a 17-4 victory that propelled it to its 11th conference championship game in 13 years.

Early in the game, attacker Kailyn Hart kicked off the best performance of her career, as she netted a goal on a free-position shot under two minutes in to draw first blood. A tally from Elon attacker Ana Lee Vandiver canceled out a score by midfielder Ellie Masera, but a pair of goals by midfielders Charlotte Verhulst and Jaden Hampel gave the Seawolves a three-goal cushion.

The Phoenix dug their graves deeper before the turn of the period. After a yellow card on Elon defender Jessie Penner awarded Stony Brook a woman-up opportunity, Phoenix goalkeeper Caitlin Walsh got stuck in purgatory behind midfield while being harassed by Verhulst. Unable to escape, Walsh turned the ball over and was beaten to the net for a Verhulst tally to give the Seawolves a 5-1 lead.

After attacker Kaitlyn Michaud ended the first quarter with a score, Elon started digging its way out of its early hole when midfielder Sammy Fisher made the score 5-3 four minutes into the second frame. Verhulst scored her third goal of the half, but attacker Kailey McKenna matched it to keep the Phoenix’s deficit at two goals. However, the 7:57 mark was the last time Elon would alter the scoring column.

A pair of goals by Masera before the quarter’s end gave the Seawolves an 8-4 lead going into the break. Despite the lead, head coach Joe Spallina was not happy with his team’s performance in the opening 30 minutes of play.

“Honestly, it was probably one of the worst halves of lacrosse we’ve played all season,” Spallina said in a postgame press conference. “I know it sounds crazy for me to say we didn’t play well when winning 17-4, but there’s a standard that we set here … We have to play a certain way to be successful.”

Stony Brook turned on the jets on both ends of the field following halftime. After scoring a goal at the 10:53 mark, Hart assisted on a score by midfielder Alexandra Fusco less than a minute later to take a 10-4 lead. A goal by attacker Alex Finn was followed by two more from Hart just 10 seconds apart from each other to bring a commanding 13-4 lead into the final frame.

The Seawolves’ domination continued into the fourth quarter, as Hart tacked on three more goals. Midfielder Cassidy Millen snuck in one more goal before the final whistle to complete the 11-0 second-half rally and secure the win.

Hart posted the best output of her lengthy Stony Brook career, racking up a single-game career-best eight points on a single-game career-high-tying seven goals and an assist. Six of her goals came in the second half — something that she credited to a talk from Spallina at halftime.

“In the first half, I personally started out slow,” Hart said. “ … and I think the second half, after coach talking to us … our morale went up and we knew we needed to do better.”

With eight points on three goals and a single-game career-high-tying five assists, Masera reached a mark that few Seawolves have before her. She eclipsed 300 points for her career, becoming only the fifth player to do so in program history. She also became the sixth Stony Brook player to ever reach 100 points in a season.

Masera attributed her pass-first style of play against Elon to taking advantage of opportunities to create for her teammates.

“It’s taking what the defense gives me,” Masera said. “They’re going to send a double so I’m going to give it to Hart every time. I trust them to finish in the middle and I’ll pass it every time if they’re open.”

Topped only when they surrendered three goals against Bryant on Feb. 20, holding the Phoenix to four matched the Seawolves’ second-best defensive performance of the season. Much of their success in the defensive end is attributed to defender Avery Hines. She tied her single-game career-high with six caused turnovers and upped her season total to 55, which tied the program record.

Hines chalked up her career-best statline to benefitting from opportunities created by fellow defender Clare Levy.

“Having [Levy] back is huge,” Hines said. “I would have zero stats without her. Unfortunately, I’m the one that gets [the stats], but she deserves all of them.”

Another key contributor was Verhulst, who tallied her ninth hat trick of the season. Midfielder Erin MacQuarrie finished with a single-game career-high in ground balls (five) and tied her best single-game mark in caused turnovers (two).

Finn netted a goal and contributed two assists while Fusco scored a goal and added a helper. Hampel and Millen finished with one goal apiece. Levy, MacQuarrie and attacker Jolie Creo all recorded an assist each.

Goalkeeper Aaliyah Jones was credited with the win after making three saves and surrendering four goals through the opening three quarters. Goalkeeper Emily Manning got some work in the final frame, saving all five shots that came her way.

Moving on to its second CAA title game in as many years, the Seawolves will host the second-seeded Drexel Dragons at LaValle Stadium on Saturday. Opening draw is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. The Dragons are 13-4 on the season and 7-1 in conference play. They are coming off an 18-9 win over third-seeded Hofstra in the semifinals on Thursday.

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About the Contributor
Kenny Spurrell
Kenny Spurrell, Assistant Sports Editor
Kenny Spurrell is an Assistant Sports Editor of The Statesman. He is a senior English major and journalism minor at Stony Brook University. He began covering sports for The Statesman during the Fall 2021 semester. Since then, he has covered men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse and football. His passion for sports derives from his many years of playing basketball, football and baseball. He is a Long Island native from Selden, N.Y. and has dreams of becoming a sports journalist.
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