Young teams are not an uncommon occurrence in collegiate sports, which is why not a single coach in the America East Conference is underestimating the potential of the 2018 Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team.
The Seawolves were selected second in the 2018 America East Preseason Coaches Poll, the second time in three years Stony Brook has been placed that high.
Stony Brook posted a 7-7 overall record — including a 3-3 record in conference play — last season. Its record earned the team the No.4 spot in the regular season standings and the final spot in the postseason tournament. The team eventually fell to No. 1-ranked Albany, who went on to win the conference championship for the fifth consecutive year.
The team graduated a number of players last year, including attacker Ryan Bitzer and midfielder Alex Corpolongo, who both led the team in multiple categories.
Corpolongo led the Seawolves in goals scored with 33. He ranked third in the America East in goals and points per game with 2.4 and 2.8, respectively, and ranks ninth in program history in goals with 95 career goals. Bitzer was named to the All-America East First Team last season, where he racked up 19 goals and a team-high 31 assists, placing him second in the conference in assists, and fourth in points with 3.5.
This season poses a new look and energy to replace what has been lost from last year. The team welcomed 15 incoming freshmen, including freshman goalkeeper Ryan Erler. The 6-foot-2-inch goalie made an impact in his collegiate debut, stopping 10 shots in the first 30 minutes of action against Sacred Heart on Feb. 10. Erler finished the game with a total of 13 saves.
Erler, midfielders Patrick Kaschalk and Mike McCannell, defenseman Devin O’Leary and attacker Jack Walsh were the five freshmen who saw the field in their first collegiate matchup.
The first-years had an immediate impact on the team, with both Kaschalk and McCannell notching goals on five combined shots in their collegiate debuts. O’Leary also accounted for one ground ball on defense while Walsh had a shot at the net, which went wide.
The Seawolves may have started the season off with a defeat, but the loss still showed positive signs for the team. A late comeback brought the game within two goals after trailing 11-6 earlier in the game.
A key factor returning this season for the Seawolves is their defensive rotation, including long stick middies, seniors Kyle Abdellatif and Tyler Anderson and juniors Ryland Rees and Justin Pugal. The group accumulated success last season, limiting five opponents, three being conference foes, to single digits in goals.
“I’m very confident with the leadership and togetherness on this team,” head coach Jim Nagle said following the team’s season opener.
Rees, who was named to the Team Canada training squad in early February, and a captain of this year’s team, was a big help for the Seawolves last season. The 6-foot-2-inch long stick middie led the team’s defense with 44 ground balls and 11 forced turnovers. Rees finished fourth in the America East in turnovers last season.
On the offensive end, sophomore attacker Tom Haun emerges at the top goal-scorer remaining from last season, where he tallied up 23 goals. This season, he has already jumped out to a quick start, scoring three goals in the team’s season opener and also adding an assist. His hat-trick helped the team close the Pioneers’ lead, as he scored two of his goals with under 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
All signs are pointing to a positive season for Stony Brook. The much younger-staffed team, along with key veterans, look to live up to the expectations that have been placed on them and stay at the top of the America East.