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The Statesman


Women’s Lacrosse Preview: Sights higher than ever for Spallina and Co.

Championship Shot_AracelyJimenez-StatesmanFile
Stony Brook won another America East Championship in 2016 — the team’s fourth in a row — but the Seawolves hope to claim a national championship this season. ARACELY JIMENEZ/STATESMAN FILE

It was March 6, 2016. The Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team hosted the third-ranked Florida Gators in its home opener. The Seawolves played more efficient lacrosse than their counterparts in both the offensive and defensive zones, but were beaten badly in draw controls, trailing 11-2 in the category.

Stony Brook lost the game, 7-6.

Then on March 12, Stony Brook flew to Illinois to face Northwestern, a team it had beaten the previous year. Again, the Seawolves held their own in traditional offense and defense. The Wildcats crushed in the circle, however, winning draw controls, 13-2.

Stony Brook lost the game, 7-6.

On May 15, Stony Brook faced Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. A win would have punched a ticket to the Elite 8, but Syracuse senior midfielder Kayla Treanor dominated on faceoffs, where the Orange beat the Seawolves, 11-4.

Stony Brook lost the game, 7-6, to end its season.

The defeat was a hard pill for the Seawolves to swallow, but it illuminated a part of the game in which Stony Brook had to be better to succeed in the future.

“If we want to reach our goal of winning a national championship, it starts with us being a better draw team,” head coach Joe Spallina said. “If we don’t do that, we’re going to put ourselves in more tough situations.”

On a team drowning in talent, with goals set higher than any Stony Brook team has ever set, areas for improvement become intricate and particularized.

The Stony Brook offense, which is returning 96.8 percent of its scoring from a record-shattering 2016 season, has little to prove. The defense is experiencing more changeover, following the graduation of seniors Maegan Meritz and Alyssa Fleming, but Spallina has little doubt in that unit’s ability to succeed in their absence.

Attacker Courtney Murphy, now in her senior season, is on pace to become the most prolific goal scorer in collegiate lacrosse history later this season and expectations are higher than ever.

“We’re done coming up short,” junior attacker Kylie Ohlmiller, who had 91 points last season, said. “We’re done talking the talk. We’re going to walk the walk.”

Stony Brook has been featured in national lacrosse publications and ranked top-five in the nation preseason, so few are doubting the team’s potential any more. With any more hype, the team could change its mantra from “Prove People Wrong” to “Prove People Right.”

The Seawolves embrace the blue-collar, Long Island identity. Spallina lauds his team’s ability to “out-work” opponents, and now the team has a greater chip on their shoulder than ever before.

Stony Brook defeated Syracuse by 12 goals in a fall scrimmage, which may have provided at least a little bit of redress, even in an exhibition game, but the thirst for postseason success remains.

“We want to end this year on the highest high, not the lowest low,” senior midfielder Dorrien Van Dyke said. “The last few years have been heartbreakers and that is not going to happen again.”

On attack, Murphy, Ohlmiller and Van Dyke were the only trio of teammates in the nation to all reach 70 points last season. But three midfielders — senior Kristin Yevoli, junior Samantha DiSalvo and freshman Ally Kennedy — will look to step up and increase the scoring depth.

“Ally Kennedy is a special player,” Spallina said of the North Babylon product. “She’s one of our top midfielders right now, as a freshman. She can do everything.”

Sophomore midfielders Keri McCarthy and Kasey Mitchell and junior transfer defender Carolyn Carrera will rotate in as a “three-headed monster” on draw controls, the Seawolves’ Achilles heel in big games last season.

“Whoever is in a groove, we’re going to ride with,” Spallina said. “It’s matchups, it’s who’s proving themselves in practice. [Associate head coach] Kim Hillier has a really good read on it and I trust her.”

On defense, where Stony Brook has ranked top-two in the country four seasons in a row, there are a lot of interchangeable parts. Junior Brooke Gubitosi, who started last season, is out with a lower-body injury so senior Jessica Volpe is the lone returning defensive starter.

“Jess Volpe is a leader down there,” Ohlmiller said. “No matter who is back there with her, and in what positions, she knows the system like the back of her hand and she can direct everyone.”

Volpe is one of eight seniors on the team. The senior class has never been unranked in its tenure and has beaten 10 ranked teams.

“This senior class — I can’t even put into words what they mean to me,” Spallina said. “To do something special with this group would be everything. I wake up every morning and that’s what I think of.”

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