The Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team may have proved people wrong on Tuesday night, but the Seawolves also proved themselves right in believing they could compete with powerhouse lacrosse programs from across the country, beating the No. 6 Florida Gators in Gainesville, 12-11.
It was anything but an ordinary win for the Seawolves in more ways than one. On Monday, Head Coach Joe Spallina and his clan welcomed a seventh member to their family, his second daughter, Olivia Meredith. As the Spallina family stayed behind watching from afar, he headed south to the swamp for a battle at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
Stony Brook looked to reverse the fortunes of their 14-1 loss against the Gators at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium last season.
They were out to prove people wrong.
Tewaaraton Award finalist Shannon Gilroy, a senior midfielder for Florida, led the charge against the Seawolves after wreaking havoc last year. But this time, Spallina’s team was ready. It was time to make a statement.
For all the hype that surrounded the Seawolves when one of the best goalies in the country, Frankie Caridi, wore Stony Brook red, the team never quite broke through. Back-to-back second round appearances in the NCAA Tournament were major accomplishments for the team and the program as a whole, but as the national powerhouses like Florida confronted them, Spallina’s team fell short. Not anymore.
If beating the Gators proved anything, it was showing those powerhouses that the Seawolves will not fold in the big moments against the very best. Stony Brook already knew what it could do, but the team wanted to do something else.
Prove people wrong.
Kylie Ohlmiller tossed five into the back of Florida’s cage, bringing her to 26 points on the still-young season and backing up what has been high praise from Spallina. After a scoreless first game of the year in which her first career goal was called off for an illegal stick, the freshman has been the best player on the team, not only scoring but creating opportunities for others. It goes without saying that her performance was key in earning the huge spring break-win.
The Seawolves had not done it before, nor did many people outside the program believe it either.
Prove people wrong. That has been this team’s motto all season long.
A win against an annual contender in Notre Dame at home got things off on the right foot, and a victory against a dangerous Jacksonville squad on their turf continued the trend.
Stony Brook does not have to prove people wrong anymore. The 6-0 start to the season has shown the Seawolves’ talent and depth all over the field, including in net where sophomore Kaitlyn Leahy has had the unenviable task of picking up where Caridi left off.
There were question marks early on in the journey about how quickly the team’s offense could mesh, with a lot of pieces trying to fit together into one difficult puzzle to deal with. 12 goals against a team that has made at least the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four years shows that when things are working, that is not a problem.
The Seawolves can play, and not just with the America East, but the country.
People used to say that this was a defensive-minded squad relying on letting Caridi save the day. Stony Brook is still strong on the defensive end without their former netminder, but they have become a potent force on the offensive end as well.
Any team that has the nation’s two-leading scorers for freshmen in Courtney Murphy and Dorrien Van Dyke, a talent like Ohlmiller and Virginia-transfer Taylor Ranftle could make things happen.
That does not even point out the fact that 2014’s 22-goal scorer Kristin Yevoli does not start. This team may not have a modern-day version of assistant coach Demmianne Cook, who scored 90 goals in 2013, but it has depth that will only grow, as much of the team has plenty of time left on Long Island.
The No. 17/14 Seawolves will more than likely move up in the rankings next week with one of the program’s biggest wins to date, and that could mean more than a victory would for a Stony Brook team. As the Seawolves climb their way up the ladder, they will find themselves in a better position at the end of the year if they should not secure the America East’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
One thing that Spallina said before the season even started, though, is that there is something the team needs drastic improvement in: the draw control. If it were not for Florida turnovers late in the second half that were caused by a highly-pressuring Stony Brook defense, the Gators could have executed to tie the game.
It was a good sign to see the Seawolves win the battle in the draw circle against Notre Dame, but getting doubled up in the second half by Florida made a great performance more nerve-wracking than it could have been.
When Stony Brook wins in the draw control department, not only are they able to take its time executing in the offensive third, but it gives the Seawolves’ strong defense time to rest up for the oncoming attack.
Last but certainly not least has been the performance of senior two-way midfielder Michelle Rubino. The story used to be that her play may not show up in the statistics as much as the rest of the team. Her nine goals and three assists may disagree.
It may not seem like much compared to Ohlmiller and Murphy’s numbers, but it is really quite simple. Rubino does everything. Nobody on the team causes more turnovers, wreaks more of a havoc in the ground ball game or is in the opposing goalies face as they are attempting to clear, only to fly to the other end to make a crucial defensive play. That does not even touch her responsibilities in the draw control department, where she flings up and has caught 13 draws herself.
It is as if Rubino is the shine that makes this Seawolves painting a masterpiece. It is still early in the season, but having such a young team performing at their current level only leaves one wondering what could come next.
Ask Spallina and company, though, and they will not be thinking about that, nor the opening of their America East slate on Saturday at New Hampshire. The team instead heads back to Long Island to celebrate the addition of someone to what matters most for the Seawolves: family.