Sophomore midfielder Caleb Pearson during the Stony Brook Men’s Lacrosse season opener. Pearson scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Seawolves the victory. RABIA GURSOY/THE STATESMAN

Head coach Anthony Gilardi’s first game running the Men’s Lacrosse program ended on a high note on Tuesday, Feb. 11, with his players flying from the sideline to mob sophomore midfielder Caleb Pearson. Pearson sent the crowd home ecstatic after he netted the game-winning goal in overtime, taking the season opener 13-12 against St. John’s.

The players’ celebration ran from the field to the locker room, where an enthusiastic post-game debriefing left smiles still on the team’s faces. Afterward, Pearson described the goal as “an unbelievable feeling,” but his initial reaction to the heroic moment was to give recognition to the coaches that put everything in motion for him.

“Props to all the coaches, you know,” Pearson said. “They’re setting up a really good offense for us and the sets we’re going through. Multiple looks, different shots and I was just fortunate enough to get the ball in the back alley.”

Pearson’s climactic shot wrapped up an opening match that had plenty of positives and negatives for the Seawolves. The team fell behind early to the Red Storm, allowing three unassisted goals to open the match. The Seawolves didn’t get on the board until the final minutes of the first quarter when junior midfielder Mike McCannell found junior midfielder Patrick Kaschalk in front of the net for an easy score. The Red Storm dominated possession time in the first quarter, generating 16 shots while allowing only six.

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The second quarter seemed to stay the course, but Stony Brook caught fire late to tie things up. The team showed a capability to get hot quickly, scoring three consecutive goals in the final three minutes of the half to close the gap. Gilardi was proud of the team’s efforts in this regard and believed that it was a sign of good things to come.

“Those guys have bought in since day one,” Gilardi said. “And everything we’ve asked them to do, for those guys to get rewarded after like this shows all the lifting with our strength coach, all those things really matter. I told them in the locker room and told them in every huddle, ‘remember we’re in this thing together’ and those guys fought and battled. Again, a lot of learning, first game jitters, we’ll just continue to play through it.”

The Red Storm threatened to take control heading out of halftime, scoring in the opening seconds of the third quarter, but the Seawolves started to force penalties and take over possessions. The team went on a 4-0 scoring run to end the quarter, and senior attacker Tom Haun started it by scoring two-thirds of his hat trick. Haun agreed that the night had its ups and downs, but also noted that the Seawolves slowly managed to play their style.

 “Yeah I think there was definitely the first game jitters,” Haun said.  “We had a lot of transition [plays] and we’re just forcing it a little bit. Rushing certain things, not getting into our sets. And I think that’s where we have our advantage, on the six-on-six sets. We slow everything down, and everyone plays their game. That’s how we score goals.”

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Stony Brook added another goal to start the fourth quarter, giving themselves a three-goal cushion that seemed like it was going to be enough, but St. John’s had some life left in them. The Johnnies stormed their way back in the final minutes of regulation and had an incredible performance from senior midfielder Mike Madsen, who scored five goals on the night. However, Pearson and Stony Brook had the last laugh.

The Seawolves will head out on a brief road trip to play the Fairfield Stags on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 1 p.m. The team won’t stay on the road long, however, and will return to Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium the following week for a homestand against Brown and Hofstra.

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