Three years ago, Albany’s men’s lacrosse deity Lyle Thompson tied the America East Championship game against Stony Brook in the fourth quarter, sparking a three-goal run that culminated in a Great Danes win despite a seven-goal performance by Stony Brook’s then-freshman attackman Brody Eastwood.
The following year, with the sting of the previous season still lingering, Stony Brook was ten seconds from amending their loss with a 16-15 fourth quarter lead. Keeping composure, Thompson muscled his way from behind the net to flick a game-tying, behind-the-back top shelf goal, sending the contest into overtime, where Albany again foiled Stony Brook in heart-wrenching fashion.
Last season was hardly competitive. Albany thrashed Stony Brook 22-9 in the America East Finals on the heels of Thompson’s five goals.
But between the graduation of Thompson, the only two-time Tewaaraton winner in NCAA history, and Stony Brook returning eight starters from last season, the Seawolves stand their best chance of eclipsing their Albany hump and making an appearance in the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championships in years.
With an offense predicated on ball-movement, Stony Brook is marked by its selfless play that allowed five players — Eastwood, now a senior, senior attackman Matt Schultz, senior midfielder Challen Rogers, junior midfielder Alex Corpolongo and junior attackman Ryan Bitzer — to record 20 or more goals this season.
Eastwood, who broke the program’s all-time career goals record and has thrice lead Division-I in shooting percentage, sits only tied for the second-most goals in the season with Corpolongo and behind Schultz. Never tallying under nine goals in a game, Stony Brook has a flurry of scoring threats that force opponents to pick their poison.
Rogers, the team’s leading facilitator, is on the short list of nominees for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the nation’s top lacrosse player, after becoming the fifth Seawolf to record 200 career points this season. He and Eastwood have started all four seasons of their collegiate career, all ultimately stifled by a playoff loss to Albany. The stage is set for the pair, along with eight other seniors, to make their last push towards program history.
“We’re definitely more seasoned,” Rogers said. “We’ve been there and we know what it takes to get there.”
On defense, the Seawolves are more sound than in previous seasons. Senior transfer Zach Oliveri and sophomore Brandon Maciejewski, who split time evenly, have provided stability in net, a position that had seen a three-way fight for the starting role in previous seasons. Sophomore defenseman Ben Randall, who has borne the defensive assignment of the opponent’s best scorer, emerged as a defensive anchor. He led his team with 18 caused turnovers and all defensemen with 34 ground balls.
“I feel like a lot of missing parts in the past have come together,” Eastwood added. “Our D has been awesome this year. We have great wing guys and top to bottom, I think we’re a lot more solid team.”
Of course, Stony Brook has to first get through its semifinal matchup against Vermont on Thursday. Although the Seawolves are heavy favorites, the Catamounts proved scrappy when the two teams met in the regular season, keeping the game close in a 13-10 loss to Stony Brook. Men’s lacrosse in general enjoys great parity, evident by the Seawolves’ late-season loss to the unranked Marist Red Foxes.
“Losing to Albany last year sucked and the last three years it’s been pretty brutal,” Rogers said. “But we can’t look past Vermont. They have the best player in the league right now [America East Player of the Year Ian MacKay].”
Presuming that both Stony Brook and Albany meet in the finals, Albany would still be favored in the game. The Great Danes are ranked fourth to the Seawolves’ 13th spot in the USILA Coaches Poll. Albany also won the March 19 regular-season game 16-10, but not before Stony Brook enacted a four-goal rally that cut its deficit to one entering the fourth quarter.
The America East Championships start Thursday night in Albany when the second-seeded Seawolves take on the third-seeded Catamounts in a semi-final matchup beginning at 4:30 p.m.