In recent seasons, head coach Joe Spallina and the Stony Brook Women’s Lacrosse team have built up numerous accolades — four straight America East titles, wins against top-10 opponents and multiple Tewaaraton Award nominees — but one item remains on the team’s bucket list.
Success in the NCAA Tournament.
Stony Brook will have another chance to prove any doubters wrong this weekend against Boston College.
The Seawolves will take their 14-game winning streak to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, taking on the host Eagles in the first round on Friday. The game’s victor will face the No. 4 Syracuse Orange, who, despite being the pod’s top seed, were unable to host due to prior facility commitments.
But Stony Brook’s sole attention this week is on Boston College, who was selected to the tournament despite placing seventh in the eight-team Atlantic Coast Conference.
“If you try to catch two chickens at one time, you catch none,” Spallina said after Tuesday’s practice. “We have to catch the first chicken, and that’s BC.”
Junior attacker Courtney Murphy is only four goals from breaking the all-time NCAA record for goals in a season, 98, set over three decades ago, but etching her name in lacrosse lore is a second focus in Friday’s game.
“If it came down to breaking a record or winning the game, I would definitely take winning the game,” she said.
Boston College’s leading playmaker on offense this season is senior midfielder Sarah Mannelly, who was named to the All-ACC first team last week. Mannelly has 69 points this season, including 33 assists.
Beside Mannelly in the midfield is sophomore Kenzie Kent, a two-sport athlete who was also a member of the national runners-up Boston College women’s ice hockey team. In nine games since joining the lacrosse team midseason, Kent has 35 points.
The Eagles have three other scorers with at least 28 goals this season, but the Seawolves, second nationally in scoring defense, will look to keep the potent attack in check.
“I think that they’ll have issues trying to acclimate to our style,” Spallina said. “They haven’t played a defense like ours, with the hybrid zone that we play.”
At the other end of the field, Stony Brook is the only team in the country with three 65-point scorers this season. Junior midfielder Dorrien Van Dyke has 52 goals this year, while sophomore attacker Kylie Ohlmiller is sixth in the nation with 44 assists.
According to Spallina, passing the ball will be vital against the Eagles. The Seawolves rank second nationally as a team with 8.05 assists per game.
“They play man-to-man, they pressure, they slide early, so we have to be unselfish offensively,” Spallina said. “Move the ball and be the sum of all parts — not the master of one.”
One critical aspect of the game will come in the faceoff circle. Stony Brook has 58.3 percent of draws over its current win streak, while Boston College has taken 55.9 percent of draws this year. The Eagles’ faceoff specialist, freshman and Long Islander Sam Apuzzo, has missed the team’s last nine games with injury, but the ACC school has remained relatively successful in the category.
“[Her injury] has affected them a little bit,” Spallina said. “They’ve become scrappier on the circle, not as clean of a draw team… This time of year, if you want to win NCAA playoff games, you have to pull up your sleeves and be ready to scrap, regardless of who the opponent is.”
Stony Brook will look to carry momentum from its thrilling America East Championship victory against Albany on Sunday, won on freshman midfielder Kasey Mitchell’s last-second free position goal.
“Especially coming into the postseason, we need to know that we can win games like that,” Ohlmiller said. “Down with a couple minutes left, being able to come back and win, not even having it go into overtime.”
A pair of key moments in the contest’s come-from-behind magic came from senior defender Alyssa Fleming, the America East co-Defensive Player of the Year. Fleming helped force two turnovers in the last two minutes — one with the Seawolves trailing 9-8 and the other tied, 9-9 — to facilitate the rally.
“Dorrien jumped high, forced a bad pass, I grabbed the ground ball,” Fleming said. “It’s a team effort to get it back. Everyone was locking up someone, here, there, it takes everyone to do it.”
Last season, postseason expectations for Stony Brook were as high, if not even higher, than they are this season, but the team was upset by Princeton in its first NCAA Tournament game. Now back in the bracket, the Seawolves have a chip on their shoulders, looking to rise above past woes and contend for a national championship.
“This team has something to prove,” Spallina said. “We want to leave our mark, we want to leave our legacy, and we want to do something that no team at our school has ever done before.”