Despite taking a 3-0 lead and leading with eight minutes remaining, the No. 8-seeded Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team was unable to close out the game against the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels, losing 14-11 in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on May 22 in Chapel Hill.
The Seawolves gave it their all to cap off one of the most memorable seasons in program history, but despite being minutes away from clinching the program’s first Final Four berth, they fell short.
“Tons of respect to North Carolina,” head coach Joe Spallina said in a postgame press conference. “They are a great team and they were the No. 1 seed for a reason. I think they’re an outstanding team … but I could not be more proud of our players. Our seniors who I am forever indebted to for what they’ve done for our program and what they’ve brought to Stony Brook lacrosse. I’m disappointed in me for not being able to navigate them and lead them to a Final Four that they deserve.”
The Seawolves managed an early lead out of the gate after graduate attacker Taryn Ohlmiller, redshirt junior attacker Bridget Considine and freshman midfielder Ellie Masera scored to give Stony Brook the early lead. However, North Carolina freshman attacker Caitlyn Wurzburger’s two goals helped the Tar Heels to tie it before senior attacker Jamie Ortega took the lead for the Tar Heels. Graduate midfielder Ally Kennedy managed a goal off an Ohlmiller assist, but two North Carolina goals with less than a minute in the half gave the Tar Heels a 6-4 lead.
Considine and Masera sparked hope with a two-goal run to open the second half. North Carolina scored again to up the lead, but senior midfielder Siobhan Rafferty and graduate midfielder Kaeli Huff led another two-goal run before Kennedy and Ohlmiller scored to give Stony Brook an 11-9 lead with nine minutes remaining.
But North Carolina went on a five-goal run in the final eight minutes, two of them coming from free position shots after Stony Brook fouls, claiming their spot in Towson, Maryland for Final Four weekend. With the Seawolves up by two, the Tar Heels won three of the next five draw controls and Stony Brook turned the ball over on the two possessions that it had won.
Stony Brook’s three-goal loss was the second-closest game North Carolina played all season and the closest quarterfinal matchup this weekend. Their effort led Tar Heels head coach Jenny Levy to question why Stony Brook was not seeded higher than No. 8 in the tournament.
After last season’s cancellation threatened to cut short some of the greatest careers in college lacrosse history, the NCAA’s decision to allow an extra year of eligibility gave way to a team unlike any other in Stony Brook’s history. Veteran standouts like Ohlmiller and Kennedy were able to give their all to the team one more time, and play alongside young stars like Masera, Kailyn Hart and Jaden Hampel, who will take the baton. Players such as Rafferty, Sarah Pulis, Rayna Sabella and goalie Kameron Halsall will now take over the leading roles on the team.
“Stony Brook women’s lacrosse has been in the top 20 the entire eight years I’ve been here and I don’t foresee a dropoff,” Spallina said of the next generation of Seawolves taking over.
As for the two legends of the game he was able to coach — Ohlmiller and Kennedy — Spallina likened it to the final game of Kylie Ohlmiller and Courtney Murphy’s careers, calling it “bittersweet” and painful.