After a surprisingly competitive first half, the No. 5 Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team demonstrated its prowess and pulled away from the visiting UMBC Retrievers, winning 16-5 on a Friday evening conference semifinal game at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.
Courtney Murphy scored seven goals, Dorrien Van Dyke scored three more and the Seawolves will advance to the America East championship game on Sunday afternoon. Stony Brook is looking to win its third-consecutive conference championship and NCAA tournament bid.
Murphy’s seven goals set an America East conference tournament record. The sophomore attacker has 67 goals on the season, six of which came in the second half of the contest.
Taylor Ranftle had a strong first half, distributing the ball for the Seawolves offense. The junior attacker assisted on the first three Stony Brook goals of the game, the third of which found the stick of Amber Kupres, who gave the Seawolves an early 3-2 advantage. Kupres had three assists and a game-high five draw controls in the match.
A goal by UMBC freshman Carolyn Jamison made the score 3-3 with 6:14 remaining in the first half. After Seawolves captain Michelle Rubino won the ensuing faceoff, Van Dyke ran the ball in from centerfield and struck twice for her second goal of the game to quickly return the lead to Stony Brook, giving the Seawolves a 4-3 lead at halftime.
For a team projected to be a top-5 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, the one-goal lead at the half was underwhelming. Stony Brook trailed 5-2 in draw controls at the half and committed 13 fouls as frustration mounted. At one point, the team was forced to kill a three-player UMBC power-play due to a trio of yellow cards in a 27 second span.
“I was very angry. Not disappointed, I was angry.” Head Coach Joe Spallina said of the tight first half. “We came out flat and that’s unacceptable this time of year. I thought that first half was one of the worst first halves we played all season.”
“I think we all tend to look to each other when things get hectic,” Rubino said. “We tried to keep our composure and keep our heads in the game.”
Persistence paid off. In the second half, the Stony Brook offense began to take control of the game. The Seawolves went on a run and blew out their conference counterparts, outscoring them 12-2 after the break. After a scoreless first half, Seawolves freshman and Tewaaraton Award nominee Kylie Ohlmiller tallied six second-half points on two goals and four assists.
“Offensively, we started to click more [after halftime],” Murphy said. “In the first half offensively, we’re away from coach and were on the opposite side of the field. It’s definitely a disadvantage for us when we don’t have him chirping in our ears, telling us what to do.”
Murphy opened the after-break scoring with her second of the game, assisted by America East Rookie of the Year Ohlmiller. The advantage was made 6-3 four minutes later, when Rubino took the ball, danced around a couple defenders and potted a goal with 21:40 remaining in the game.
Murphy and sophomore Kristin Yevoli scored two more within the next minute to extend the Seawolves’ lead to 8-3 and put the game effectively out of reach.
Rubino and Ohlmiller wowed the crowd with pair of individual efforts late in the second half, the latter of whom netted a goal behind her back, and the Seawolves were comfortably on their way to another conference championship game.
Defensively, Stony Brook was stellar once again. The nation’s second-ranked defense forced 16 turnovers and went 13-for-14 on clear attempts. Kupres and Alyssa Fleming each had three ground balls for the Seawolves.
The America East conference tournament game will be on Sunday at 12 p.m. on the home turf of LaValle Stadium against the winner of the Albany vs. Vermont matchup late Friday night.
“We’re one win away from getting the [automatic qualifier,]” Spallina said. “Our RPI is very high, and we’re a win away from being one of the top five seeds in the tournament.”