The Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team is coming off an impressive 2022 season in which it finished with a 9-5 overall record and placed second in the America East Conference (AE). However, the year ended earlier than usual, as the team was banned from competing in the postseason tournament due to its impending move to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
The ban left a sour taste in the mouths of many involved, but it gives the team extra incentive to return with a vengeance this upcoming season.
“I think our biggest weakness was knowing that we couldn’t compete,” attackman Dylan Pallonetti said in an interview with The Statesman. “I think after knowing that you can get your season cut short, every game is circled for us.”
In his fourth year at the helm for Stony Brook, head coach Anthony Gilardi has a lot on his plate for the upcoming season. He voiced the struggle of keeping spirits high following the announcement made last February.
“I think the decision was a tough one for everyone to swallow,” Gilardi said. “It is something that you will never forget and will be a part of this team and this program for a long time. But, we are excited to get past that now and are looking forward to the future.”
Expectations remain high for the Seawolves, who were projected to finish fourth in the CAA preseason poll of head coaches. They are currently receiving votes in the Inside Lacrosse Rankings Poll. In the CAA, Stony Brook is predicted to finish behind No. 12 Delaware, Towson and Drexel.
Stony Brook lost many key contributors from its 2022 roster, including four of their top seven goal-scorers.
Midfielder Mike McCannell made First Team All-America East each of the last two seasons and is now with the San Diego Seals in the National Lacrosse League after five years with Stony Brook. Attackman Kevin Mack received All-America East Second team honors last season and led the team with 53 points. Midfielders Wayne White and Matt DeMeo are also impactful players who will not be returning.
Despite the roster turnover, Gilardi is confident that he still has enough weapons to compete this upcoming season.
“I think the best part of college athletics is that guys graduate and new guys come in,” Gilardi said. “This team is built to compete in any week. Going into the CAA, the top end of the league is really good, and we feel like we belong in that top echelon.”
In his third season with the Seawolves, Pallonetti will look to lead the way. The redshirt junior has been a dominant force since he arrived at Stony Brook, making the All-America East First Team each of his first two seasons with the program. Last season, the Stony Brook native led the team in goals with 34. He has scored at least once in each game of his career thus far. Pallonetti voiced that the expectations for the team’s first season in the CAA are no different than any other year.
“We want to win it, we’re going after it,” Pallonetti said. “We’re coming in full force, we think we’re fully prepared. We’re coming in hot.”
Pallonetti will serve as a captain for the Seawolves for the second straight year. He will be joined by midfielder Caleb Pearson and defensive midfielder David Miele-Estrella. Though the two graduate students may not pop out on the stat sheet, Gilardi did not understate the value of the leadership the two bring to the team.
“David is a fierce competitor. He’s a guy that gives it everything he has every time he’s on the field. The guys have a ton of respect for him,” Gilardi said. “Caleb Pearson is the ultimate glue guy that does a little bit of everything. He’s the guy who connects everyone on the team together.”
Earning preseason All-CAA honors, defender Mikey Sabella is bound to play a pivotal role in bringing the Seawolves to success. The senior was a two-time All-AE selection, earning AE Second Team honors last year. In 2022, he tallied one assist and scooped up 21 ground balls while causing six turnovers.
“I think the first goal has got to be winning the conference,” Sabella said. “Nothing matters more than this team winning. I could get no accolades, I could get every accolade, but none of it matters if we don’t win the conference.”
After appearing in only three games and tallying two assists in 2021, attackman Noah Armitage was picked by Gilardi as the guy he expected to break out last season. Armitage proved his coach’s prediction right, scoring 25 goals and assisting on four more in his sophomore season. After losing high-volume scorers in McCannell and Mack, Armitage is ready to carry an even heavier load on offense this upcoming season.
“[I’ve been] putting in the time outside of practice,” Armitage said. “Getting in those extra shots, extra reps, and doing the right things when nobody’s looking. Nobody gets better by just wanting it, you have to put in the work and the extra reps.”
On a team that does not lack scoring weapons, few are as clutch as midfielder Matt Anderson. He scored 25 goals a season ago, good for third-most on the team along with Armitage. He also tallied nine assists, 12 ground balls, four caused turnovers and four game-winning goals on his way to being named to the All-America East Second Team in 2022.
Along with Pallonetti, Anderson was selected to the Preseason All-CAA team. Now in his fifth year with the program, Anderson is confident in the Seawolves’ ability to score the ball this upcoming season.
“I think we have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, and I think we have a lot of depth this year,” Anderson said. “With the influx of transfers and returning guys, I’m really excited to see what we can do.”
With no shortage of impactful returning players, Stony Brook also brought in some high-level transfers this past offseason. Attackmen Blake Behlen and Jonathan Huber will play pivotal roles for the Seawolves this year.
In his two seasons at LIU, Behlen racked up 54 goals, 46 assists and won five Northeastern Conference (NEC) Prime Performer awards. Behlen was named to the All-NEC Second Team last year with the Sharks, scoring 36 goals and assisting on 20.
Huber finished his career with St. John’s as the sixth-leading scorer in school history, scoring 95 goals in his five years with the program. He was named to the All-Big East Second Team last season, tying the program’s single-season scoring record with 40 goals.
Gilardi believes the two will play big roles in the already impressive Seawolves’ scoring attack.
“Those guys are going to come in and have a chance to really step up,” Gilardi said. “Those are two guys who, right off the bat, definitely add some punch to our team.”
Other players that Gilardi sighted as guys to look out for in 2023 include midfielders Sean Carlo and CJ Harris, defenders Carson Forney and Michael DeSano and face-off Robbie Smith.
“I think those guys are going to get a chance to really step up,” Gilardi said. “We’re excited to see some scrimmages here to see how things shake out.”
After having to watch the playoffs from afar last season, Stony Brook’s retooled roster looks to cause trouble in the CAA. The goal of winning has not changed for the Seawolves, and Gilardi believes that the team is well-equipped to make noise in its new conference.
“We want to compete for the CAA Championship. We’ve said that from day one,” Gilardi said. “That’s our goal in this program is to compete for championships and make it to the NCAA Tournament.”