WLAX_PC_ChristopherCameron

The Stony Brook Women’s Lacrosse team is facing eight teams that participated in the NCAA Tournament last year this upcoming season. PHOTO CREDIT: CHRISTOPHER CAMERON

If a team wants to be the best, they must play against the best.

Stony Brook’s Women’s Lacrosse team is doing exactly that with a schedule featuring eight NCAA tournament teams from a season ago.

The Seawolves’ 2016 schedule, released on Wednesday, includes several nonconference games against teams in national contention, including rematches against Florida, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins—three teams that Stony Brook played last season.

Head coach Joe Spallina’s team will begin its season on the road against Bryant on Feb. 28. The Bulldogs were Northeast Conference champions in 2015, losing to Loyola in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

After the season opener, Stony Brook will begin its home schedule at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium with a game against Florida on Mar. 6. The Seawolves defeated the then-sixth-ranked Gators 12-11 last season in Gainesville, Florida.

After playing Yale at home, the Seawolves will then begin a cross-country road trip against three NCAA tournament teams. Stony Brook will face Northwestern on Mar. 12. The Seawolves’ victory against the Wildcats last season is the highest-ranking win in program history. Northwestern, a seven-time national champion, was ranked No. 5 in the country when the teams met.

In a pair of games in California, Stony Brook will take on USC, a team they defeated 7-4 last season, on Mar. 14. Two days later, the Seawolves will face the San Diego State Aztecs.

After returning from the Golden State, Stony Brook will host Delaware on Mar. 19 in the first contest of a five-game homestand. On Mar. 24, Jacksonville will visit LaValle Stadium. The Dolphins won the Atlantic Sun Conference last season and will look to avenge a 13-4 loss at the hands of the Seawolves last year.

Stony Brook faces Stanford on Mar. 26. The home match will mark the first ever meeting between the two teams. The Cardinals were conference champions of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in 2015 en route to an NCAA tournament berth.

Spallina’s squad will kick off America East play on Apr. 2 with a home game against Vermont. On Apr. 6, Stony Brook hosts UMBC, a team that the Seawolves defeated in the conference semifinals last season.

After a pair of conference games against New Hampshire and UMass Lowell, Stony Brook will look to avenge its only regular season-loss from last season against Johns Hopkins at LaValle Stadium on Apr. 17. The Blue Jays were ranked No. 20 in the country when they beat the Seawolves 7-5 in Baltimore, Maryland.

The regular season concludes for Stony Brook with a road game against Binghamton on Apr. 20, a home game against Hofstra on Apr. 22 and its regular season finale at Albany on Apr. 30. The Seawolves have defeated the Great Danes in the America East championship game for three consecutive years.

The four-team conference tournament will be played on May 6 and May 8 at the site of the top seed in the conference.

“One of our goals from day one has been to put together a challenging schedule that prepares us for conference and postseason play,” head coach Joe Spallina said in the Athletics Department press release disclosing the team’s schedule. “This year’s schedule is another step in that direction. We are really looking forward to the challenges this schedule presents in our pursuit to the top.”

In four seasons at Stony Brook, Spallina has brought the team from a 4-11 squad that the Seawolves were the season before he arrived to a team that went 18-2 in 2015, including the postseason. Only Maryland, the eventual national champions, had a better record last season.

For Stony Brook, the goal is now to achieve success in the NCAA tournament and improve on last year’s season-ending home loss to Princeton in the second round. By playing the toughest schedule in program history, the Seawolves will try to prepare themselves to do exactly that.