Ally Kennedy during the America East Semifinal game against UMBC on May 2, 2019. The graduate midfielder scored the first two goals in a game against North Carolina Tar Heels on Feb. 14. EMMA HARRIS/STATESMAN FILE

After two postponements made way for an early season top-ten matchup, the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team fell to the top ranked North Carolina Tar Heels by a final score of 14-7 in Chapel Hill.

“Carolina is a great team and are No. 1 for a reason,” head coach Joe Spallina said in a postgame press release. “They are a team that makes you pay for your mistakes. We showed some great signs and we also did things that resembles us not playing a game in a year.”

Graduate midfielder Ally Kennedy, named the Preseason Player of the Year by US Lacrosse Magazine, put the Seawolves on top by scoring the first two goals of the game for a 2-0 lead. UNC tied the game before graduate midfielder Kaeli Huff, a USC transfer, scored her first goal in a Stony Brook uniform to give the Seawolves the lead again.

UNC pulled off four straight goals before redshirt-junior midfielder Siobhan Rafferty, who sat out the 2020 season with a torn ACL after scoring 50 goals in the 2019 season, answered back with her first of three goals on a man-up play to help cut the deficit to 6-4.

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However, another three goals from the Tar Heels before the half meant the Seawolves entered halftime down by five.

After the break, Rafferty and Kennedy combined for three goals, with both players earning their first hat tricks of the season in the process. Still, a stout UNC defense held the Seawolves scoreless for the final 23:29 after Rafferty’s third goal, halting the comeback attempt in its tracks.

“What better way to start your season than against the best team in the country and now have a full season to get better and strive for what this team has set out for?” Spallina said. “We went on a great second-half run to get the game to two and missed a few opportunities from that point that were big. Overall, it was just great to compete again with our players.”

Following the cancelation of both their original season openers — with Stony Brook set to play Villanova and UNC scheduled to take on James Madison — Spallina was able to coordinate a game only days in advance with UNC head coach Jenny Levy, a fellow Team USA coach. The Seawolves now drop to 0-4 against No. 1 ranked teams in program history.

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Now, the Seawolves turn to another powerful Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) school in No. 3-ranked Syracuse. Stony Brook stunned Syracuse 17-16 in the Carrier Dome for last season’s opener, and will look to do the same again on Feb. 27.

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