If there is one thing to say about Stony Brook’s women’s lacrosse Head Coach Joe Spallina, he does not like to lose.
“I used to dream of success, now success is inadequate,” B.o.B. says in Stony Brook’s run-out song, “Bombs Away.”
It is as if those lyrics were made for this team. Spallina arrived on campus in June of 2011, with hopes of turning a losing program into a winner. The Seawolves have managed to do just that, enjoying their winningest season in program history in 2013 while following it up with the same number of wins, 17, in 2014.
Both seasons saw Stony Brook punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. On both occasions, they made the second round.
Against Syracuse, things were different. It was not that the Seawolves did not fight. The Orange simply did not give them a chance. They showed spurts in the second half of what Stony Brook’s lacrosse program could do against the very best in the nation, but there is still a step to take.
Somehow, in the middle of all of this success, there is a sense of disappointment. Spallina and his Seawolves know that they can be better. They want to be the very best, and they will not stop until they get to the very top of that mountain, a tough one to climb.
“Stony Brook stands out to me because they have done a great job changing the culture of the way their team runs in the past few years,” Michigan’s assistant coach, Alyssa Murray, said. Murray has a unique viewpoint in that she played on the Syracuse team that beat Stony Brook last spring and served as an assistant coach for the Seawolves this fall. “ They have gone from a team that was unranked and struggling to a major threat.”
A lot of that change in culture comes from their coach, who won multiple national championships while at Division II Adelphi. It is more than just creating schemes and calling out plays to the student-athletes.
“I know Coach Spallina and no one is more competitive than he is,” Greg Gurenlian, a professional lacrosse player and member of Team USA, said.
Day in and day out, he brings that passion to his team, and it shows.
Not very often do freshmen show enough of a competitive fire that it makes up for their lack of experience. That rare occurrence came in the form of Courtney Murphy, Dorrien Van Dyke and Kristin Yevoli.
The trio combined to contribute 45 percent of Seawolves points last season. 28 offensive players saw action for Stony Brook last season, and three of them owned 45 percent of the team’s goals and assists. That is unreal even for seniors or players with a lot of experience. Words cannot quite describe what that shows about the three stars with three seasons left to go.
The best part for the Seawolves is that they are not alone.
Over 90 percent of the team’s scoring returns this season, which makes Spallina’s thoughts about this year’s offense even that much more shocking.
“I think that you’ll see what will be a much more prolific offense this year,” Spallina said. “I think our offense will rival our defense as far as national respectability.”
That is bold to say, since last year, the Seawolves defense set a Division I record for scoring defense. It was not just an America East accomplishment. Stony Brook gave up only 5.33 goals per game, something no other team in the country had ever done.
So, what will make the offense that impressive this coming season?
Freshman Long Islander Kylie Ohlmiller of Islip High School is a good start. As a senior, she was named a U.S. Lacrosse All-American, but high school and the college game are totally different animals.
Her effort day in and day out at practice have shown Spallina otherwise, though.
“I think Kylie Ohlmiller will be the most prolific scorer in the freshman class in the country,” the head coach said. “Before she’s out of here she’ll be a very strong candidate to win the Tewaraaton, she’s that good.”
The Tewaraaton Award is given to the best player, period, in the entire country. For a coach who does not throw such compliments around without warranting, that is a huge statement.
Ohlmiller will at least have to share the spotlight with another star addition to this Seawolves squad, as the coaching staff brought in Taylor Ranftle from Virginia. The junior from Hauppauge did not have eye-popping numbers on a stacked Cavaliers team, but she was ranked No. 14 in the country by ESPNHS coming out of high school.
With the ambitions that Stony Brook has, it will need all the talent they could get.
““I think we’ve got to take the next step,” Spallina said. For a team that has proven they can compete by winning a game in each of the last two NCAA Tournaments, it is not just about getting there anymore. “I think we’ve got to go and win some big games.”
One of the biggest obstacles in doing just that will be overcoming the toughest loss in the history of the program. Frankie Caridi did it all as Stony Brook’s goalkeeper. From leading the team to being a Tewaraaton Nominee last season, it is hard to lose your best player.
““I think the big thing is not expecting your goalie to be Frankie,” Spallina said. He will be giving sophomore Kaitlyn Leahy a tremendous responsibility in trying to come close to replacing the former third-team All American. “Listen, if the best goalie in the world was in our goal this year, we would have questions because Frankie’s been my goalie for four years, and I don’t know another way.”
What Spallina does know is that his program is no longer an unknown. When he took the reins, that is almost exactly what it was. Now, with two straight America East titles in their back pockets, the Seawolves are looking for more.
“I think this is a team that could compete with anybody. I think if our goaltending play will be good, this team will be great.”
Great for Spallina is not the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It is much, much more. Only time will tell how far they can go, but the Seawolves open up against a tough USC squad on Feb. 20.