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High hopes, expectations for Women’s Lacrosse this season

Claire Peterson, a pre-season All-American,  is expected to be a key player for the Seawolves this season. Statesman File Photo.
Claire Peterson, a pre-season All-American, is expected to be a key player for the Seawolves this season. Statesman File Photo.

The Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team ended the 2012 season, runner-up to Albany by just two points, in their first-ever appearance in the America East Championship Final. But that bitter taste won’t be lingering in the Seawolves’ mouths for long.

The team has been ranked No. 1 in the 2013 America East preseason poll; No. 18 in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) preseason poll and No, 19 in the deBeer Media Poll. This marks the first time in school history that the Seawolves have earned a preseason national ranking.

The Seawolves are no longer considered underdogs, but for head coach Joe Spallina, they never were. “I don’t believe in the underdog thing. I think if you have a good team, you have a good team,” he said. “We felt like we had a good team last year and never really embraced the role of the underdog even though people gave it to us. This year we expect to be the favorite and we expect to win.”

Stony Brook’s women’s lacrosse program improved dramatically last season with the addition of Spallina who was the former Adelphi women’s lacrosse coach. Spallina was named the 2012 America East Coach of the Year after coaching the Seawolves to 14 victories, a 10-win improvement from the season prior.

One of those victories was against Johns Hopkins, the program’s first-ever win against a nationally ranked opponent. The team’s final record was 14-5 and 5-1 in the America East.

“I’m a demanding coach but I also am a player’s coach,” Spallina said. “I’m on their side but they also understand that when they step on the field it’s gotta be 110 percent or they’re held accountable.”

The 2013 season captains are seniors Claire Petersen (#20, attack), Demmianne Cook (#27, midfield), Melissa Rotante (#19, defense), Janine Hillier (#24, midfield) and junior Jessica Romano (#28, defense).

“It’s part of my job along with the other four captains to set an example for everyone else on the team and to set the expectations so everyone can follow,” Petersen, who set a program record for single-season assists (59) and points (101) last season, said.

She is Stony Brook’s first ever women’s lacrosse All-American. She has been named 2013 preseason All-American by ILWomen.com and was named to the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association All-American third team and was America East Player of the Year in 2012.

Cook and Hillier are also dominant players. With nine goals in one game and a total of 68 last season, Cook finished the 2012 season as one of the nation’s best two-way players. She also ranked third in the country in goals per game (3.58). Hillier had 47 goals and 21 assists last season, second on the team in both categories.

The Seawolves have been practicing very hard to make the 2013 season even more successful than the last. “Everyone of our kids is probably in the best physical condition of their life,” Spallina said. “I think that their level of preparation has been outstanding.”

Although the team returns every starter, defenders freshman Alyssa Fleming (#16), Shoreham, NY and University of Florida transfer and redshirt freshman Maegan Meritz (#12), Farmingdale, NY will be starting this season Spallina confirmed. “Both of them have star qualities,” he said. “They are going to be huge impacts from the field in addition to all of our returning players.”

Junior Frankie Caridi (#2, goalkeeper) and sophomore Michelle Rubino (#1, midfield), two players who garnered all-conference recognition along with Petersen, Cook, Rotante and Hillier, are among those who will return this season.

Last season’s overall success has made it easier for the returning players to set higher goals to reach with their new teammates. “We’re not just going to settle for the America East Championship,” Petersen said.

It is going to take hard work and perseverance from each player to achieve this. “The team believes,” Spallina said. “Our goal is to make it to the NCAAs and go in there and make some noise and try to be playing in the final four.”

The Seawolves kick off their season on Saturday, Feb. 16 at Bucknell and return home on Saturday, March 9 to face Longwood at 1 p.m. in LaValle stadium.

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