Freshman attackman Tom Huan carries the ball down the field in a game against Fairfield on March 4. ANNA CORREA/THE STATESMAN

Freshman attackman Tom Huan carries the ball down the field in a game against Fairfield on March 4. Huan is one of the Seawolves’ top scorers with 11 goals. ANNA CORREA/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team have struck freshman gold in the 2017 season, as two first-year attackmen sit among the top of the scoring leaders for the Seawolves.

Head coach Jim Nagle had big shoes to fill after losing two senior attackmen — Matt Schultz and Brody Eastwood — who combined for 105 points last season.

Freshman attackman Cory VanGinhoven has been the shining star for Stony Brook’s offense, as he ranks second on the team in goals with 13. Freshman attackman Tom Haun sits at third in scoring on the team with 11 goals.

VanGinhoven scored seven goals against Brown earlier this season, assisting his team to its second victory against a top-10 ranked opponent in program history.

Nagle compared VanGinhoven, who is off to a sensational start early in his young career, to Eastwood, Stony Brook’s all-time scoring leader, who had a team-high 44 goals during his freshman campaign.

“We just lost Brody Eastwood,” Nagle said. “He did that when he was a freshman. We needed someone to fill both Eastwood and Schultz’s shoes and [Haun and VanGinhoven are] doing a nice job of filling
that role.”

Neither player expected to play much this year, let alone play as well as they are this early on in
their careers.

“Coming in as a freshman, you never know if you’re going to play or get any time at all,” Haun, a Sachem native, said. “So you just have to be grateful for that, I was just coming into practice and trying to play hard every day and hoped for the best.”

“I came in and I was just trying to get on the field and play within the system,” VanGinhoven said. “Keep my fundamentals and listen to what coach was saying and just try and help the team out any way I could whether I was playing or not.”

Nagle is not surprised by the way his freshman class has been performing; he knew what he had from the get-go. Nagle believes that the freshmen success is in large part due to tutelage from veterans who have assisted the newcomers.

“We knew he had a good freshmen class, and they’re proving it,” Nagle said. “They’re doing great I think largely in part to our senior leadership. They’re really doing a great job with those guys and encouraging them and supporting them. In turn, they have really done what the seniors have been asking them to do.”

Senior attackman Ryan Bitzer, one of the team’s captains, has prided himself in showing the freshmen the ropes of what it takes to be a successful player in the collegiate world.

“[I’m] just trying to be the older brother kind of figure,” Bitzer said. “Just talking them through some specific situations and being there when things aren’t going right and just trying to help them learn the game. I’m just assisting them right now. They’re finishing for me so they’re helping me out too, in
that aspect.”

Bitzer leads the team in assists, recording 10 on the season with five of those dimes heading the way of VanGinhoven or Haun.

“You can see early on in the season they’re already producing,” Bitzer said. “So teams are going to be aware of that and that’s going to open up some other guys. It’s rare you see freshmen open up all of their guys but that’s something that they’re capable of.”

The star freshmen claim that they owe their success to the system that Nagle has put in place for the
young athletes.

“We’re just playing within the system,” Haun said. “On any given day, anyone can have five goals. I mean Cory had seven the other day, that was ridiculous. But we’re just playing in the system and everyone’s just working hard. We don’t really have that one guy that’s going to score all the goals.”

Leading the team in goals is a major accomplishment for VanGinhoven, but the North Carolina native is more focused on bringing championship trophies to Stony Brook this season.

“Stats I don’t really care about,” VanGinhoven said. “Whatever happens, the main goal for the team is to win the America East and then after that is the national championship, we’re just trying to go for it all.”

Coming from a high school that had an inexperienced coach in place, the transition to a college level was like no other for VanGinhoven.

“It’s been a big change,” VanGinhoven said. “Lacrosse was the smallest sport. We didn’t even have a bus to go to the games, we had to drive ourselves to the games. In my high school, there was like three guys, my goalie, myself and another attackman and we honestly had to coach the team ourselves.”

It was through his travel team that VanGinhoven was able to develop his skills to the fullest. Team Carolina consisted of players that assisted VanGinhoven to become the player that he is today.

The freshman duo came to Stony Brook not knowing if they would even touch the field. They currently have a combined 22 goals and share one common objective in mind.

“Just to win the America East Championship,” Haun said. “I could care less about scoring as long as our team is winning.”