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The Statesman


No. 14 Stony Brook women’s lacrosse repeats as CAA champions

Attacker Kailyn Hart celebrates a goal by the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team against Drexel on Saturday, May 4. Hart scored a pair of goals of her own in the Seawolves’ CAA title-clinching victory. STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

The No. 14 Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team pulled away late to book an 11th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

In the final home game for most of their core players, the top-seeded Seawolves (17-2, 8-0 CAA) overcame the second-seeded Drexel Dragons (13-5, 7-1 CAA) en route to winning the 2024 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) tournament on Saturday at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. Stony Brook clinched an automatic bid to the national tournament with a low-scoring, 9-6 comeback victory over Drexel.

With 9:41 left in the third quarter, the Seawolves’ longest active winning streak over conference opponents across all NCAA Division I sports was in danger. In fact, the streak was as close to ending as it has been since Stony Brook joined the CAA in 2023.

With a 4-3 advantage, the Dragons worked the ball clockwise until it rested in attacker Kate Marano’s stick at the X. With the choice of two cutters, she opted for attacker Bridget Finley. All in one motion, Finley received the pass and fired a shot past goalkeeper Aaliyah Jones for her first goal of the season, which came when it mattered the most.

Although the Seawolves lacked their usual abundance of clear-cut scoring opportunities to that point, they still generated chances. Stony Brook fired off 22 shots within two periods and the first seven minutes of the third frame, including 14 that landed on the cage. However, Drexel goalkeeper Jenika Cuocco — the back-to-back CAA Goalkeeper of the Year — stood tall at most turns. Through the first 37 minutes of the contest, she had already made 11 saves.

As do-or-die territory approached, the Seawolves made a crucial modification.

“[Cuocco] was hot today,” midfielder Ellie Masera said in a postgame press conference. “She’s a great goalie. I think I was seeing her instead of the net and that was the adjustment we had to make at halftime.”

Following Finley’s tally, Stony Brook did indeed see much more of the net, as it ripped off three unanswered goals to end the quarter to take its first lead of the game. Despite experiencing uncharted territory against a conference foe, the Seawolves never panicked.

“It doesn’t matter how you start, it matters how you finish,” midfielder Charlotte Verhulst said. “Instilling confidence in each other when the shots aren’t falling the way we want them to was super important.”

After taking a 6-5 advantage into the final period, Stony Brook kept its foot on the gas. In its first attacking set of the frame, Masera scored a woman-up goal to double the team’s lead. After Verhulst controlled the ensuing draw, midfielder Erin MacQuarrie joined in on the fun to make it 8-5.

However, the Seawolves’ avalanche was not finished. They also won the next draw that led to a free-position goal by attacker Morgan Mitchell.

Stony Brook’s draw unit came to play on Saturday. While the offense struggled early, the trio of Verhulst, Masera and defender Clare Levy in the circle were locked in throughout. Overall, the Seawolves won the draw control battle 12-5.

Head coach Joe Spallina attributed the unit’s success to all actors involved.

“Sydney Pirreca, our assistant coach, does a killer job,” Spallina said. “Obviously, we have one of the best takers in the country in Charlotte. We have the dynamic duo in the circle. These guys put a lot of time in, watch a lot of film. Sydney does an incredible job in making sure the unit is prepared for everything that could happen. I think that was the key to the game.”

With 9:05 remaining in the contest, Drexel attacker Allison Drake kept her team in it with a free-position goal. After a rare draw control win, the Dragons had the chance to inch even closer. However, a miss on a free-position attempt by Drake followed by a turnover by attacker Bea Buckley gave Stony Brook possession with under eight minutes left.

With the ball in their grasp, the Seawolves used the remaining time to their advantage and killed the clock. Although they did not score again, the pressure on Drexel’s attack to chip away at its deficit mounted with time winding down. The Dragons could not answer the bell, as three turnovers down the stretch guaranteed consecutive CAA titles for Stony Brook.

The Seawolves outshot Drexel 39-15. They were +9 (18-9) on the turnover differential and picked up 16 ground balls to the Dragons’ 10.

Masera spearheaded the attack with a hat trick. Attacker Kailyn Hart tallied a pair of goals while Mitchell, MacQuarrie, Levy and Verhulst scored a goal apiece.

Mitchell and midfielder Jaden Hampel dished out Stony Brook’s only two assists.

Defender Avery Hines had another strong performance with five caused turnovers. She is up to 60 for the season and has already broken the program’s single-season record for caused turnovers, shattering Brooke Gubitosi’s previous record of 55 set in 2017.

Masera broke a program record of her own on Saturday. She controlled a pair of draws to give her 136 draw controls for the year, surpassing Keri McCarthy’s program-best single-season draw control mark of 135 that she accomplished in 2018.

In the cage, Jones was not called upon often. She made two saves and allowed six goals for a .250 save percentage. Conversely, Cuocco stopped 17 shots for a .654 mark.

Marano led Drexel with two goals and two assists.

Masera took home the 2024 CAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament Most Outstanding Player award, adding yet another personal accolade to her already deep trophy shelf. She was also selected to the 2024 CAA Women’s Lacrosse All-Tournament Team alongside Hart, Levy and Verhulst.

The Seawolves will find out who they will face in the first round of the 2024 NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament on Sunday night at 9 p.m., which is when the selection show occurs.

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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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