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The Statesman


No. 14 Stony Brook women’s lacrosse blows out Niagara, advances to second round of NCAA tournament

Midfielder Ellie Masera scouts for a teammate against Drexel on Saturday, May 4. Masera tallied 10 points in the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team’s national tournament opening-round win. STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

The No. 14 Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team cruised through its 2024 NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament opener to keep its all-time undefeated streak in first-round matchups alive.

Rainy conditions at the Syracuse University Soccer Stadium might have hindered the Niagara Purple Eagles (16-4, 7-1 MAAC), but it did not slow down the Seawolves (18-2, 8-0 CAA) on Friday. Stony Brook advanced to the second round of the national tournament with a wire-to-wire, 19-7 victory over Niagara.

The Seawolves’ suffocating defense, paired with apparent nerves stemming from the Purple Eagles’ first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, resulted in seven first-quarter turnovers for Niagara, allowing Stony Brook to take an early 6-1 lead. 

Head coach Joe Spallina emphasized the need for an emphatic start to his team.

“I think the biggest thing for us was getting out to an early start,” Spallina said in a postgame press conference. “Jumping out on them. I thought our players did a great job of establishing that early lead and never looking back.”

However, with the opening period winding down, the Purple Eagles executed a possible momentum-shifting play. With 14 seconds left in the frame and the Seawolves up a woman, defender Clare Levy failed to corral a pass from midfielder Charlotte Verhulst in Stony Brook’s attacking area. The ground ball was picked up by Niagara midfielder Rachel Crane, who sprinted from one side of the field to the other and found attacker Riley Latray open on the doorstep of the crease. As the buzzer sounded, she went top shelf to cut her team’s deficit to four.

Nonetheless, the Seawolves did not allow Niagara back in the game thanks to a king-sized effort from their draw unit. Stony Brook controlled the first two draws of the second quarter and turned both possessions into goals to make it 8-2. Midfielder Alexandra Fusco added another on a counterattack, but Niagara attacker Lois Garlow got one back for her team. 

After midfielder Ellie Masera controlled the ensuing draw, the Seawolves scored on their next attacking set. The goal — coming from attacker Kailyn Hart’s stick on a free-position shot — was the first of four unanswered goals by Stony Brook to close out the half.

The third period was more of the same for the Seawolves, as they forced another four turnovers and raddled the net four more times. Although Niagara attacker Andra Savage scored, goalkeeper Emily Manning got the best of the Purple Eagles in the frame. After replacing goalkeeper Aaliyah Jones following the first quarter, Manning made two saves in the period — including one on a free-position shot — and five total before leaving with 12:44 remaining in the contest.

Manning attributed her solid day to her composure in the cage.

“Coach always says, ‘see the ball and save the ball,’” Manning said. “That’s what was going through my head. Just trying to be patient and do what I do.”

With most of its starters on the sidelines in the fourth frame, Stony Brook’s bench players got a chance to roam the field. Attacker Jolie Creo made the most of her opportunity, scoring twice to give the Seawolves a 19-4 advantage. Although Niagara tallied the affair’s final three scores, they simply served as consolation.

Stony Brook outshot the Purple Eagles 36-15. It won the draw control battle 15-12, scooped up 17 ground balls compared to Niagara’s nine and went +8 (18-10) on the turnover differential.

Masera spearheaded the Seawolves’ offensive effort with six goals and four assists. With her big day, she reached 114 points for the season, breaking the Coastal Athletic Association’s (CAA) record for points in a year.

Stony Brook’s superstar credited her teammates for the achievement.

“It goes to show how deep our offense is,” Masera said. “When Hart’s getting locked off on the left side, that opens up things for me and [Finn] was getting locked low and that’ll, again, open up some lanes for me.”

Attacker Alex Finn scored a hat trick and dished out an assist. Fusco, Hart and Creo scored a pair of goals apiece. Verhulst, midfielder Jaden Hampel and attackers Morgan Mitchell and Courtney Maclay rounded out Stony Brook’s scoring with one goal each.

Verhulst gave out two assists while Hart, Mitchell and attacker Caitlin Dellecave all tallied one assist.

Three different goalkeepers had a chance to mind the Seawolves’ net in the game, as Jones, Manning and Francesca Viteritti all received minutes in the cage. Manning made all of Stony Brook’s five stops and conceded two goals for a .714 save percentage while Jones and Viteritti combined to allow five goals and make no saves.

Conversely, goalkeepers Jordan Roy and Katie Ling shared the cage for the Purple Eagles. The former made six saves and allowed 12 goals for a .333 save percentage while the latter stopped two shots and conceded seven goals for a .222 mark.

Savage led Niagara’s attack with a hat trick of goals.

With the win, the Seawolves moved on to the second round of the 2024 NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament, where they will face the No. 3 Syracuse Orange on Sunday at the SU Soccer Stadium. Syracuse is 14-5 overall this season, with one of those blemishes coming against Stony Brook. Opening draw for their rematch is scheduled for 2 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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