Tempers flared, legs were slashed and goals were scarce. Such is life when Stony Brook and Albany clash in women’s lacrosse, and Saturday evening’s tilt at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium was no different.
When the dust settled, the at-home Seawolves reigned victorious, claiming a 7-5 win against their fellow nationally-ranked America East rival.
“Playing Albany is always the most intense game of our season. It’s our rivalry game,” sophomore attack Courtney Murphy said after the game. “It’s a huge game for us, potentially the conference championship game, so we knew we had to get the win.”
Murphy was the game’s leading scorer, finding twine three times in the game. Her 37 goals on the season are good for second-most in the conference.
“We prepared for the game, we knew what to do, we executed,” Murphy continued. “That helped us and we were able to score when we could and I was just able to finish.”
Kylie Ohlmiller, Amber Kupres, Dorrien Van Dyke and Michelle Rubino all scored a goal for the Seawolves, who advance their perfect record to 11-0. Stony Brook and the perennial-powerhouse Maryland Terrapins are the only teams in the country that remain undefeated.
Perhaps the most intriguing matchup in the game was the Great Danes offense against the Seawolves defense. Albany came into the game with the second-ranked offense in the country (17.9 goals per game) and Stony Brook entered play with the second-ranked defense in the country (4.7 goals per game).
The dominance of the SBU defense prevailed, as Albany was held to a season-low eight shot attempts. The stifling defense was even more obvious in the first half, during which Stony Brook held Albany scoreless after the Great Danes attempted a measly two shots. Coach Joe Spallina’s team entered the dressing room at halftime with a 4-0 advantage on the scoreboard.
Stony Brook’s margin at the half could have been even greater had it not been for Albany goalkeeper Courtney Henderson.
“[She] made some key saves at key times when a goal may have ended the game,” Spallina noted. Henderson had five first half saves to keep the score manageable for the Great Danes.
The second half was an entirely different entity. Albany came out strong, firing two shots past Stony Brook goalie Kaitlyn Leahy, reducing the deficit to 4-2 with 19:19 remaining in the game.
Albany may have been much more successful in its comeback efforts had it not been for the strong draw play of the Seawolves. Stony Brook led in draw controls 10-4 in the game and 6-3 in the second half.
With Stony Brook doing a good job of keeping possession in the second half, frustration grew from the Albany side, as the Great Danes increased their defensive intensity. The Great Danes given six yellow cards and a green card in the game. At one point in the second half, Stony Brook was playing with a three-man advantage.
“I think tonight, Albany, they kind of lost their composure. They started swinging. I know they had seven or eight cards, but I’ll be honest with you, I think they could have had three or four more. They were swinging for the fences,” Spallina said of his opponents’ physicality.
“I told our kids, you know, we’ll play however you want to play, but funnel your emotions in a positive way, with poise. I think we did a good job with that.”
The Seawolves’ next game is on the road against the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays on Tuesday at 6 p.m.. Johns Hopkins is known for its prolific lacrosse programs, boasting nine national championships in the sport.
“I told the kids before that we’re going down to the Mecca of lacrosse. Their home field is like the holy shrine of lacrosse and that’s a huge game,” Spallina said with a chuckle.
The game against Johns Hopkins is the second game of a key four-game stretch that Spallina believes will define the season.
“I looked at today as the start of an important four game stretch for us. We’re 1-0 through that and now we have Johns Hopkins, and Vermont, who beat us last year, then we finish next Sunday at home in what I’m sure will be a very well attended game against one of the top teams in the country Northwestern.”