MANJU SHIVACHARAN / THE STATESMAN
Challen Rogers, (No. 23, above) has scored 27 goals this season. MANJU SHIVACHARAN / THE STATESMAN

On the far east end of Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, a men’s lacrosse player slowly pranced from near the sideline towards the goal crease, no urgency in his steps.

The clock was ticking down, ten seconds and counting, yet calm as can be, that student-athlete made his move and tied the America East semifinals, before his team beat Stony Brook to end the
Seawolves’ season.

That player just happens to be Lyle Thompson, Albany’s All-World attackman who has returned after his Co-Tewaaraton Award winning season to lead his Great Danes on another postseason run.

Albany will likely be the toughest barricade for the Seawolves to knock over if they are to win the America East Tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament.

The Great Danes broke Stony Brook’s hearts with a gut-wrenching overtime win in last year’s conference semis, but this year’s Seawolves team is different.

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The squad will look to finish what it started last season with a semifinal matchup against Vermont on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at SUNY Albany.

The Seawolves trounced the Catamounts in Burlington earlier this season, as senior attackman Mike Rooney’s 11 points led the way in the team’s 21-12 win after bursting out to a 13-4 halftime lead.

It is not a shock that Rooney went off for double digits, as he leads the country in points with 98 and is second in the nation behind Thompson in points per game.

Stony Brook’s season on a whole can only be summed up with one phrase—record-breaking. The Seawolves look to continue doing just that as they head into the America East Tournament this week.

A year ago, Head Coach Jim Nagle’s team won six games, including a stunning loss to eventual NCAA Quarterfinalist Albany in the America East Tournament semifinals.

With pretty much the same squad back, minus a transfer to Duke and the injury bug throughout the year, the Seawolves came out swinging, winning 12 games on the year.

If the team should go on to win the America East Championship, they will break the program’s record for wins set by a Kevin Crowley-led 2010 team that lost in the NCAA Quarterfinals, 10-9, to Virginia.

So, how has a squad with almost no change doubled its win total and performed so much better with their backs against the wall?

As Nagle and his team said before the season started, the Seawolves bought in during the offseason, putting in the work and doing whatever it takes to win.

In one year, the program records for career points, points in a season, career assists and assists in a season have all fallen and done so at the hands of one student-athlete: Rooney.

The Long Island native has risen to the occasion, especially when the team has needed it most.

Stony Brook defeated Fairfield by merely one goal earlier in the season, with Rooney coming up with seven points on the day.

Recently against Binghamton, he added nine points in a big overtime win.

Without his poise, those outcomes may not have been the same.

Junior attackman Brody Eastwood has quietly skated by while having arguably the most prolific scoring seasonin team history.

He broke the records for goals in a game and season while steadily sitting in second in goals per game in the country.

That does not even take into account arguably the most unselfish performance of all coming from possibly the most talented of all the Seawolves, junior midfielder Challen Rogers.

His effort and impact may not show on the stat sheet, but for a midfielder to shoot 47 percent is unreal, and the slides he draws opens plays up for his teammates.

What does this all mean? The Seawolves have been doing great things individually, but while some teams may see that negatively impact the overall result, it has only come together to produce one of the best overall team seasons at Stony Brook this year, during which the squad has spent much time in the national rankings.

There is one problem, and it happens to be a very, very big one: If the Seawolves should advance to the America East finale, they will more than likely face a team that sits in the country’s top-10 in Albany.

Thompson is not only the best player in college lacrosse, but possibly one of the best in the world. He answered any and all questions about whether he could play without brother Miles and cousin Ty, who both graduated last season from Albany.

Thompson broke Rob Pannell’s NCAA career points record and unselfishly led the country’s most prolific offense with a group that he had little to no experience with before the first face-off of the year was held.

As well as Stony Brook can play, proving that the team can hang with anybody when it went into halftime against two-time defending National Champion Duke only down by two goals, it will come down to playing a clean enough game against the Great Danes so that the Seawolves will not have to play catch-up.

Looking to make a comeback against such a dynamic offense will only spell disaster for the Seawolves.

A lot of that will start at the face-off “x,” where sophomore Jay Lindsay and junior Frank Lucatuorto have filled in nicely for Kyle Rowe, who joined his brother Jack at Duke.

As the season has gone along, both players, but especially Lindsay, have excelled in the ground ball game, a soft spot for the team as a whole in the past, and one of the most vital aspects of lacrosse.

Time and time again this year Stony Brook has found itself in tough situations, and it has been winning that key face-off, stealing that messy ground ball or making the right pass at the right time that has allowed the team to dig in and win games that it may not have won last season.

If the Seawolves do indeed beat the Catamounts, they will play the winner between the Great Danes and the Hartford Hawks on Saturday morning at 10 a.m in Albany.

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