Having two siblings that both donned a Stony Brook jersey before her, it only made sense that Kailyn Hart would do the same.
The senior attacker has made an impact ever since she first stepped foot on a collegiate field. This year, she will look to add to her impressive resumè for the No. 6 Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team.
Hart’s athletic journey began in North Babylon, N.Y. where she began playing lacrosse at the age of four. The presence of the sport in the Hart family long predates Kailyn, as her father Michael played lacrosse for SUNY Cobleskill over 40 years ago.
“I was brought up around [lacrosse] throughout my childhood,” Hart said in an interview with The Statesman. “My dad was my coach, my sister’s coach and my brother’s coach. So he really got us into it. I always had a stick in my hand.”
As the youngest of three athletes, Hart’s competitive spirit was ingrained in her from an early age. Her sister Kelsey played lacrosse at Florida and Stony Brook, while her brother Michael also played lacrosse for the Seawolves before transferring to Florida to play football. Needless to say, there was no shortage of athletic ability in the Hart household.
Along with lacrosse, Hart also played soccer, ran track, danced, bowled and did gymnastics in her early years.
“I find happiness in playing sports,” Hart said. “I love the culture of having a team … just knowing that you’ve built friendships to fall back on if you need anyone, and just have that foundation and family around you.”
Though Hart knew that lacrosse was her first love, she continued to participate in soccer and track at North Babylon High School. She racked up several awards in her five-year varsity lacrosse career and was also a two-time All-League selection in soccer. She was also the captain of the soccer team and lettered in track as well.
Hart was a star on the lacrosse field for the Bulldogs, but the team around her was lackluster. This made her a target for opposing defenses. During her sophomore year of high school, Hart was swarmed by a pack of defenders during a game against Brentwood High School and broke her ankle.
Luckily, the injury served as a minor setback for Hart. She used it as a learning experience, as it forced her to learn how to deal with suffocating defenses.
Another source of knowledge on the North Babylon lacrosse field was Ally Kennedy, a former Stony Brook All-American midfielder. Kennedy was a senior there while Hart was a freshman, and she mentored Hart during the 2016 season.
“She made it easy to get in the groove,” Hart said. “ She kind of took me under her wing.”
Hart’s decorated career at North Babylon saw her be named a two-time Under Armour All-American, an honor that helped put her in contact with Stony Brook head coach Joe Spallina. Hart reminisced on Spallina’s motive to get her to the Seawolves.
“I was an Under Armour All-American … so I remember Coach being at those tryouts, and he was like ‘You know, you don’t have to keep looking anymore. We’re right here.’”
Hart had many college options, going on visits with the University of North Carolina, Syracuse and Towson. Though she weighed her options, she was destined to end up at Stony Brook. The campus is just over 20 miles away from her former high school, and her family ties made the commitment during her sophomore year an easy decision.
“A part of me always knew that I wanted to come to Stony Brook,” Hart said. “It’s close to home, but also, I loved the way Coach Spallina coached. I love the culture of this team.”
Hart’s freshman season started just about as well as it could have. In her collegiate debut against No. 4 Syracuse, she earned a spot on the SportsCenter Top 10 list with a behind-the-back goal en route to a 17-16 upset win. Just five days later, Hart made the list again with a similar play in a 20-7 win over Ohio State. She cited her goal against the Orange as her favorite moment at Stony Brook thus far.
“Even though I was a freshman, I needed to step up,” Hart said. “It was a great feeling to win with my team. That’s probably the best feeling I’ve had here.”
Though being featured on ESPN for her first two games was an honor for Hart, it set the bar high for the rest of the season, something that acted as a crutch in her freshman year.
“As a little freshman, you’re like ‘Oh my god, I have to live up to this. I have to go out and make ESPN every single time,’” Hart said.
Hart was productive in the five games she played as a freshman, but the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming into her sophomore year, Hart took the burden of living up to the hype as a learning experience.
“Sophomore year, I think I had a mental game with myself,” Hart said. “But then towards the end of that season, and definitely last year, I was like ‘Okay, I don’t need to make ESPN every single time. I can make these little easy plays and still look good.’”
In 2021, Hart tallied 27 goals, 14 assists and 10 ground balls, earning a selection to the America East Conference (AE) All-Rookie team. She helped lead the Seawolves to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, where they fell to the top-seeded University of North Carolina.
Despite the loss, Hart looks back fondly on the run Stony Brook made in her sophomore year.
“The stands are packed, people are screaming, our parents are there and it’s just a great feeling,” Hart said. “In the moment, you’re really nervous, but then you get in the groove of like ‘Alright, let’s do this.’ Everyone’s nervous around me, and you just have to shake it off and turn the nerves into good nerves.”
After promising freshman and sophomore years, Hart exploded in 2022. In her junior year, Hart tallied 64 goals, 14 assists, 14 ground balls and three caused turnovers. She won AE Attacker of the Year and earned All-AE First Team honors. Her recognition spread to the national level, as she was named an Inside Lacrosse All-American honorable mention.
According to Hart, her All-American campaign stemmed from a conversation that Spallina had with her during a practice. His wise words helped simplify the game for her, leading to the aforementioned breakout.
“Coach pulled me over one day during practice … he was like, ‘You have to play the way you know how to play.’” Hart said. “He was trying to tell me that it doesn’t matter that you don’t always score. You don’t always have to score as long as you’re moving the ball the right way.”
Ahead of her senior season, Hart continues to receive attention. She has been named to the Preseason All-America Third Team by USA Lacrosse Magazine, as well as a Preseason All-American honorable mention by ILWomen.
Expectations are sky high for the Seawolves ahead of the 2022 season, as they are the unanimous pick to win the Colonial Athletics Association (CAA) title. Hart was named to the Preseason All-CAA Team, and she will look to bring leadership to the team in its first year in the conference.
“I think the one thing that we have to do is know our goals and be smart and trust each other,” Hart said. “As a captain, we need that leadership that’s going to guide everyone. I think it’s going to be easy for us to get into the groove of it.”
Hart would like to remain in sports when her time at Stony Brook ends, but her main goal is to be a real estate agent. However, she does not have to worry about that just yet. Hart still has one year of NCAA eligibility remaining after the upcoming season. Luckily for Seawolves fans, she plans to remain put.