The Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team finished strong against the NJIT Highlanders on Sunday, March 14 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. After an early deficit, the Seawolves poured on 10 unanswered goals to win 13-4 in a key bounce-back victory that snapped a three-game losing streak.
The win was second-year head coach Anthony Gilardi’s first win against an America East opponent.
All seemed to be going well at the start for the Seawolves (3-3, 1-1 AE), who had a two-goal advantage after fifth-year attackman Tom Haun and senior midfielder Mike McCannell scored the opening goals. However, NJIT (0-4, 0-2 AE) responded with three straight goals to take a 3-2 lead before exchanging goals with the Seawolves to tie the score 4-4 at the end of the first quarter.
“Every team is gonna come out with a punch in the beginning of the game and we knew that,” graduate attackman Cory VanGinhoven said in a postgame press conference with The Statesman. “When we came in at the end of the first quarter, Coach was telling us that we were just playing sloppy and we had to pick it up, come together as a team and play how we wanted to play.”
That tying final goal of the first quarter, scored by VanGinhoven off an assist from junior midfielder Caleb Pearson, would prove to be the spark the team needed to get out of their early rut as the team completely shut the Highlanders out on the scoreboard and rattled off another nine straight goals through the final three quarters.
VanGinhoven led the way offensively with four goals on the day, followed by the two goals apiece from graduate midfielder Chris Pickel Jr. and redshirt-freshman attackman Dylan Pallonetti. Rounding out the scoring was Pearson’s own goal, alongside scores from graduate midfielder Matt DeMeo and junior midfielder Matt Anderson.
FOGO Austin Deskewicz put in a solid 16 of 21 faceoff wins along with eight ground balls to give the Seawolves a possession advantage that helped turn the battle into a win.
The defense overcame the early miscues to end the day on a high note. The team held NJIT to just 22 shots (with only half of them on goal), with junior midfielder David Miele-Estrella and graduate midfielder Tom Dugan adding a combined four of the team’s eight total caused turnovers.
“It was a great team win,” senior defender Danny Cassidy said of the overall effort of his teammates to rally back. “Every game is a battle of runs. They had their run first, and I think after that we really settled in, and we really played like a team after that especially on the defensive end. I think we were a little sloppy at first, but we honed it in after that.”
Junior goalie Anthony Palma solidified the defensive turnaround following the early three goals, ending the day with seven saves and a solid 63.6% save rate.
“It gets us our first win in the America East Conference,” Gilardi said. “It was the most important thing for us was getting there. And having that Friday/Sunday [game slate], we told our guys when we scheduled it that it’s a preview for the America East Tournament play. You play on a Friday and turn around and play on a Sunday. That’s why we were excited to set this up.”
Coming off a tough three-game losing streak (with the most recent being their loss on Friday to Syracuse), the team battled and played to win late in the game. Now entering league play for the remainder of the season, every game means more as the Seawolves will fight to earn their spot in the America East Tournament, starting with UMass Lowell on Saturday, March 20.
“We gotta get hot in-league,” Gilardi said. “We’re six games in now, we are even with our record, and now it’s all about being 1-0 every week. For us, we have to work on continuing to improve. The guys will get tomorrow off to get mentally and physically prepared after the tough stretch, and we go to play UMass Lowell who just won their game and they’re 1-1 too in league play. That’s the exciting part of league play from now on: every game is really important. Every game you gotta focus on yourself and your opponent and continue to grind.”