In just two years, the turnaround under head coach Joe Spallina is complete.
Stony Brook captured its first-ever America East championship on Sunday afternoon, defeating Albany 14-3 and avenging last year’s loss in the tournament final.
“We just wanted to be the team of the year,” Spallina said. “We had running time in both games, that speaks to the level of focus of our kids.”
Much like they have done all year, the Seawolves won in dominating fashion. They rushed out to a 4-0 lead just over five minutes into the game, and scored the game’s final eight goals.
Three players recorded hat tricks for Stony Brook: seniors Janine Hiller Demmianne Cook and junior Emily Mercier. Junior Alyssa Cardillo had two goals and two assists.
Hillier, who also finished with three assists, won the tournament’s most outstanding player award.
“We came in this season knowing how we felt last year,” she said. “We didn’t want to feel that way again, and we’re just excited now that we won.”
Two years ago, Stony Brook seemed very far off from winning a conference championship. The team was coming off of a 4-11 season and failed to qualify for the conference playoffs.
However, after Spallina’s hiring, a few transfers, a strong recruiting class and a new attitude have changed the program’s fortunes.
“I’m happy for the kids who were here through the tough years,” Spallina said. “Those kids were here during the lean years, to see the look on their faces, how happy these kids are, we’re proud of our kids.”
Friday was business as usual for Stony Brook as it beat the University of Vermont Catamounts in the semifinals of the America East championship 18-4.
Tewaaraton Award nominee Demmianne Cook led Stony Brook’s offense. She had seven goals, breaking the all time career goals record of 150. The senior transfer from Adelphi was humbled and determined after the game.
“We came here to win, we had to win the draw and get out running,” she said. “Next week we’re going to try and win the America East and then try to get a final four appearance.” She had no comment on the record.
Coach Joe Spallina was very proud of his senior captain’s development after the game. “She’s really focused on becoming a full-time athlete. She always had all the talent but her commitment to conditioning and things she can control and pushed her to a new level.”
Last year Stony Brook suffered a 9-7 semifinal loss to University of Albany. “I’m still upset about last year’s loss and so are our veterans. This week I’m going to have the runner-up trophy put in the locker room to keep it in our players mind,” said Coach Spallina.
Friday afternoon saw the return of senior captain Claire Peterson who was sidelined the past few weeks with a “lower body injury.” However the large leg brace didn’t keep Claire from her typical stellar passing, notching three assists and a goal. “She’s about 85 percent and 85 percent for Claire is better than most, so we’re happy with it,” Spallina said.
Stony Brook, currently ranked 10th in the IWLCA poll and seventh in the deBeer Media poll, will also advance to its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance, playing (insert team here) at (insert time here).
“We’re in, and that’s a huge step of arriving as a program,” Spallina said.