Courtney Murphy stands alone.
After netting her 99th goal of the 2016 season on Friday afternoon, the junior attacker for Stony Brook now owns the most proficient goal-scoring season in the history of Division-I NCAA women’s lacrosse.
But the record-breaking shot was also timely, as it extended the Seawolves’ lead late. Stony Brook defeated Boston College, 11-9, advancing to play No. 4 Syracuse on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“That was a talented team, as good of a team as we’ve played all year,” head coach Joe Spallina said. “These NCAA games have a lot of ebbs and flows. They’re going to go on a run, we’re going to go on a run. You take a punch, you give a punch. We just had to give one more punch, and thanks to our defense we did that.”
With 5:19 to play in the game, Murphy found a gap in the Eagles defense and caught a pass from sophomore midfielder Samantha DiSalvo. The attacker turned, approached the goalkeeper and buried the score on a bouncing shot to the net’s bottom-right corner.
Murphy let out a double fist-pump, a shout and perhaps a sigh of relief. The junior jumped into the waiting arms of freshman midfielder Kasey Mitchell, having reached the pinnacle of collegiate lacrosse goal-scoring.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Spallina said. “She’s big-time, and big-time steps up when it matters the most. She’s done it against teams of all shapes and sizes. Against good teams, not-so-good teams — she’s done it all year.”
The score dethroned Delaware’s Karen Emas, who scored 98 goals in 1984, and capped off a late run to give the Seawolves an 11-8 lead. The Eagles answered with one goal of their own — a tally from senior midfielder Caroline Margolis — but a late yellow card doomed the home team. Stony Brook was able to run out the clock and extend its winning streak to 15 games.
With Stony Brook leading 6-4 in the opening minute of the second half, DiSalvo was left abandoned in front of the net, where she took a pass from sophomore attacker Kylie Ohlmiller and expanded the Seawolves’ lead to three.
But Boston College fought back. Over the next seven minutes, the Eagles scored three times, the last of which was from their star, senior midfielder Sarah Mannelly, to tie the game, 7-7. The surge prompted a timeout from Spallina.
“I just told them to calm down,” the coach said, and his players did. The two teams traded a pair of goals, making the score 8-8, then the Seawolves pulled away.
Murphy’s record-tying goal gave Stony Brook a 9-8 lead with 13:52 to play. Possessing the ball behind the goal, Murphy made a move on the defender, ran around the net and beat Boston College junior goalkeeper Zoe Ochoa with a quick shot inside the near post.
A few minutes later, Ohlmiller buried a chance on a bouncing shot to make the score 10-8. Throughout the game, Boston College employed a faceguard on Ohlmiller, isolating a defender on the Stony Brook’s assists leader to deny her the ball at all costs. But Ohlmiller still found a way to score when it counted.
At the other end of the field, the Eagles had several more offensive possessions than the Seawolves by virtue of a 13-7 advantage on draw controls, but Stony Brook’s defense stood tall. The Eagles were unable to penetrate the middle of the Seawolves’ zone, and when they did, Stony Brook’s defenders were able to draw offensive fouls. Senior Maegan Meritz and junior Jessica Volpe each took a charge.
The Seawolves’ freshman in the cage, goalkeeper Anna Tesoriero, made three second half saves, including a sweeping stop on a low free-position shot from Mannelly.
“We did a really good job of flowing together as a unit,” Spallina said. “It’s a testament to the preparation we did, we had a pretty good read on everything they were doing.”
With the win, the Seawolves advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Stony Brook will face Syracuse on Sunday at 4 p.m., when the two teams will square off for a neutral-site game at Boston College.
Syracuse, led by senior midfielder Kayla Treanor, is perhaps the best draw-control team in the NCAA. After a shaky performance in the department on Friday, there will be a focus on the faceoff circle against the Orange.
“They are a great draw team,” Spallina said of his next opponent. “We’re going to have to turn it into a scrum, we can’t let Treanor get the ball clean — that’s what she tries to do. We have to be tough, outwork them and do a better job in the blue-collar part of the game.”