The eighth-seeded Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team was firing on all cylinders at home on Friday, as the Seawolves defeated the visiting Towson Tigers by a final score of 14-8 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Seawolves now advance to the second round to face Rutgers, who defeated Drexel later in the day at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.
Graduate attacker Taryn Ohlmiller led the Seawolves with seven points (four goals and three assists), and tied for the second-most points in an NCAA Tournament game by a Stony Brook athlete alongside Dorrien Van Dyke and sister Kylie Ohlmiller.
“Great to win an NCAA playoff game,” head coach Joe Spallina said in a postgame press conference. “Not easy to win, especially a team we played already. Towson has many of the same characteristics as us and we know every time we play them it’s a battle.”
The Tigers were the first to strike on the scoreboard less than two minutes into the game, but a three-goal run in the middle of the first half put the Seawolves ahead as the teams battled it out to assert control of the game. Graduate midfielder Ally Kennedy scored twice as the half ended to swing the momentum into the Seawolves’ hands.
Coming out of halftime, the Seawolves buried the Tigers as they rattled off another four unanswered goals. After holding Towson scoreless for nearly 20 minutes, the Seawolves took a 9-2 lead only six minutes into the second half and extended that lead to 13-4 midway through the half. After some late Towson scoring, the Seawolves emerged victorious by the final buzzer.
“I liked the way we stayed the course after shots weren’t falling in the first half,” Spallina said. “But if you want to win playoff games, it starts and ends with the defense and the goalie. So I feel confident in our offense’s ability to score, but today came down to our defense being able to lock it down.”
The story of the day was Stony Brook’s defensive effort. The unit only allowed 15 shots on goal, and redshirt junior goalkeeper Kameron Halsall saved seven shots. Meanwhile, Towson sophomore goalkeeper Carly Merlo faced 26 shots on goal and saved an impressive 12 of them.
“The energy was great,” senior midfielder and reigning America Defensive Player of the Year Rayna Sabella said about the defensive unit’s energy during the game. “The vibes were great, I guess you could say. We had to stay positive and have faith in each other.”
Having first defeated the Tigers 10-8 back in March, the Seawolves proved how much they have grown as a team since with this win. The team continues to get production from superstars Kennedy (three goals, two assists and two ground balls) and Taryn Ohlmiller.
“It’s the same as always with us: we’ve ready to play ‘Stony Brook lacrosse’,” Taryn Ohlmiller said. “That was our mindset this whole week. Everything was about us and how we were gonna play. We definitely looked back on that game [in March]. But that was way earlier in the season and we knew we had a much better team now. It was the ‘all about us’ mindset.”
Meanwhile, the Seawolves continue to find scoring from other players who have stepped up in big moments. Graduate midfielder and 2021 First Team All-America East Tournament selection Kaeli Huff finished with a hat trick while senior midfielder Sarah Pulis, redshirt junior attacker Bridget Considine, sophomore attacker Morgan Mitchell and freshman attacker Jaden Hampel all added a goal apiece. Senior attacker Rebecca Kinsley also dished out two assists on the day.
“I think we’ve been improving every week in practice,” Taryn Ohlmiller said. “A bunch of the freshmen are really getting the hang of things, Rebecca Kinsley has been out on the attack a lot and we’ve happy for her. I think that everyone is improving every week and I think that’s what’s great about our team.”
While the day was a positive one for the team, they learned minutes before the game that Kennedy was left off the finalists list for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the best player in college lacrosse.
Spallina called the committee “irresponsible” and expressed his disappointment for both Kennedy and all players who were left to deal with being left off the list before a playoff game.
However, Spallina noted that the team is unfazed by the decision and will be prepared for their next match Sunday at noon.
“It’s all about Sunday now,” Spallina said. “Our girls will be fed, hydrated and rested for Sunday, and we will be ready.”