The Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team had a terrific start last year, going 8-3 and sitting No. 14 in the national rankings after being named preseason favorites. The Seawolves’ final three games, including a loss to Vermont in the America East playoffs, were, unfortunately, something to forget.
This year, Stony Brook won’t even be able to play in the semifinals. The America East banned the Seawolves from earning a spot in the conference playoffs in the wake of their upcoming departure to the Colonial Athletic Association.
Still, the aim remains the same, and head coach Anthony Gilardi is hungry to top a season that was not up to his standards.
“The goal for us is to win the America East Conference and get to the NCAA Tournament,” Gilardi said in an interview with The Statesman.
Stony Brook was picked to finish second in the America East in the upcoming season according to the conference’s preseason poll, behind only Vermont. Since the team won’t be able to prove their worth in the playoffs this year, they will instead look to assert themselves in the regular season to show that they are one of the top teams in the conference and earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Though the 2021 season was unremarkable, there is hope that the team will have stronger cohesion than the year before. Many significant players are returning for the Seawolves, including graduate midfielder Mike McCannell.
No one could have asked for much more from McCannell in the 2021 season, a year in which he was named First-Team All-America East. Appearing in all 14 games, McCannell racked up 19 goals, 19 assists and 12 ground balls. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment was being selected fifth overall in the first round of the 2021 National Lacrosse League draft by the San Diego Seals.
“I’m just going to come out and play the best lacrosse I can,” McCannell said. “Especially playing with these guys. We’ve got a really talented group.”
Part of that talented group is one of McCannell’s fellow captains, attacker Dylan Pallonetti. The Ward Melville High School alumni brought home America East Offensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the 2021 season, becoming the first player in the program’s history to win both awards in the same season.
Pallonetti was also named First-Team All-America East and chosen for the America East All-Rookie team. Playing in all 14 games, Pallonetti led the team with 36 goals and an America-East-leading 55 points while also grabbing 31 ground balls.
“It’s just something that I played my whole life,” Pallonetti said when asked about his passion for lacrosse. “Fell in love with the game and it’s the best part of the day being out here on the field.”
On defense, junior Michael Sabella looks to continue to contribute to the success of the Seawolves after being named a captain for the upcoming season. Sabella received the honor of first-team All-America East as a sophomore, while also being named to the America East All-Rookie Team and the America East All-Championship Team.
“I think the way this team meshes together despite all the new faces, and despite everything that’s going on in the world right now, shows that we have a lot of talent and a lot of resolve,” Sabella said. “We’re going to be a dangerous team come this season.”
One of those fresh faces is attacker Kevin Mack. After playing four years at the University of Michigan, the Manhasset resident decided it was time to come home for his last season of college lacrosse. In his time at Michigan, Mack played in 39 games, recording 95 points from 53 goals and 42 assists.
“I think I definitely have a presence behind the net,” Mack said. “Just trying to get the ball to finishers inside and dodge up the alleys, trying to draw double teams and get the ball to my teammates.”
Other impact players to monitor are long-stick midfielder Christian Lowd, who tallied 39 ground balls and 10 caused turnovers in all 14 games, as well as midfielder Wayne White, a graduate captain who racked up three goals, five assists and nine ground balls in 12 games played.
Gilardi picked sophomore attacker Noah Armitage to be the breakout player this season, following a year in which he tallied two assists in only three games played.
“He’s a guy who’s been banged up his first two years here. He’s done a really great job,” Gilardi said.
Minor changes could have made a big difference in the outcome of 2021. Stony Brook lost three games by only one goal, two of which came in the final two games of the regular season.
“It’s a tough way to go out there,” Gilardi said. “So I think that finishing games and in tight games, making plays [are some things to improve on].”
We will have to wait and see what effect the absence of postseason play will have on the Seawolves, and if they will use it as a motivator or a hindrance. When asked about the playoff ban, players seemed optimistic that they will not let it bother them on the field.
“We’re just really focused on ourselves right now. You know, it’s a tough setback, but we’re past that now,” McCannell said.
A team that has something to prove is dangerous, and the Seawolves’ roster from top to bottom is hungry to prove its worth.