In its home finale, the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team rode a big first half to snap its two-game losing streak.
The Seawolves (7-6, 4-2 CAA) said goodbye to Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium for the rest of the year in victorious fashion, winning a high-scoring affair 17-14 over the Fairfield Stags. The win keeps Stony Brook in third place in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) standings while also eliminating Fairfield from playoff contention.
Stony Brook’s attack came out of the gates firing. Just 34 seconds in, attackman Dylan Pallonetti continued his scoring streak to 41 games and gave his team a 1-0 lead. Just under a minute later, attackman Richie Dechiaro scored his second goal of the year to double the Seawolves’ lead.
After Fairfield midfielder Luke Okupski got his team on the scoreboard at the 12:36 mark, the Seawolves scored four consecutive goals to give themselves a comfortable lead. Defensive midfielder David Miele-Estrella started the streak by scoring his first goal of the year. Over the following five-plus minutes, Pallonetti scored two more times to complete a hat trick while attackman Jonathan Huber joined the scoring spree.
Fairfield scored three more times over the remainder of the first quarter, but midfielders Matt Anderson and Noah Armitage each scored a goal to help Stony Brook take an 8-4 lead into the next period.
Both offenses slowed down in the second quarter. Fairfield opened the frame up with consecutive goals from attackman Jack McKenna. Towards the end of the first half, three-straight goals from Anderson, Huber and midfielder Will Button gave Stony Brook an 11-6 lead going into halftime. The early cushion was integral for the Seawolves, as they were outplayed in the second half but still held on to win.
Head coach Anthony Gilardi pointed to Stony Brook’s mentality for its strong first half.
“I think the thing is the guys are just trusting the plan,” Gilardi said in an interview with The Statesman. “I think that was the focus: just do what we’re coached to, and we did that. We had great looks and we have really talented players. Offensively and defensively, they trust the plan and do what they’re coached to do and their talent takes them to the next level.”
Stony Brook maintained its five-goal lead in the third quarter by drawing even with Fairfield at four goals apiece. The highlight of the quarter came with just over three minutes left when defender Mikey Sabella finally scored the first goal of his NCAA career.
Sabella knocked Fairfield midfielder Rob Moore’s stick out of his hands to cause a turnover and then scooped up the ground ball in the open field. After racing 30 yards downfield, Sabella shot the ball through the legs of Fairfield goalkeeper Will Snyder to put Stony Brook up 13-8.
Sabella was elated to have finally scored, especially since it was senior day at LaValle Stadium.
“I’m blessed,” Sabella said. “I was given a great opportunity. I came out here and I played for the seniors. We need to send them out right; it’s our last home game here. We got to come out swinging, [the seniors] fought hard, their season was on the line. We just had to get the job done and we did it.”
In the final quarter, Fairfield scored three-straight goals in a 48-second span to cut Stony Brook’s lead down to just two goals with over 11 minutes remaining. Pallonetti snapped the Stags’ streak by scoring his fifth goal of the game just 10 seconds after the third goal. Within the next minute, McKenna scored again to cut the Seawolves’ lead down to 16-14.
With just over five minutes left in the game, Fairfield midfielder Malcolm MacInnes scored what would have been a crucial goal to cut Stony Brook’s lead down to just one. However, he crossed the goalie crease and the goal was waved off.
As the clock ticked down to four minutes, Fairfield kept making bids to take over the game. Fairfield midfielder Hank D’Ambrogi ripped a shot from the 25-yard line, but it was no match for the fast hands of goalkeeper Jamison MacLachlan, who deflected it away and out of bounds. Maintaining possession, Fairfield attackman Max Paparozzi attempted a low shot on a catch-and-shoot play, but MacLachlan was equal to the task and knocked it away once more.
Stony Brook’s defense continued to stand its ground. Still clutching onto a two-goal lead, attackman Blake Behlen iced the game with just over two minutes remaining. After catching a quick pass from Pallonetti between the eight-meter and 12-meter arcs, Behlen fired one under Snyder and into the net for the dagger.
With the CAA tournament looming and Stony Brook’s position not yet secured, Gilardi spoke about the importance of the win.
“It’s huge,” Gilardi said. “Right now it’s all win-or-go-home mentality and the guys know that. Every game, it’s going to be ugly. It’s going to be chaos because everyone is fighting for their lives. This is what playoff lacrosse feels like. At the end of the day, we found a way to win and I’m proud of the guys.”
In what was a very high-scoring affair, both offenses did a good job creating opportunities. Stony Brook generated slightly more chances, attempting 50 shots to Fairfield’s 47. The Seawolves landed 30 of their shots on goal, which was just one more than the Stags.
While Stony Brook proved to be the better team, Fairfield won the possession battle. The Stags won 20 out of the 35 total faceoffs and was +1 in turnover differential. Fairfield also caused two more turnovers and picked up 13 more ground balls than Stony Brook.
MacLachlan was clutch in the cage, saving 15 out of the 29 shots he faced, good for a 51.7% save percentage. After allowing his 14th goal, MacLachlan saved each of the next six shots that Fairfield landed on cage. Snyder did not perform as well, saving only 43.3% of the shots that came his way.
As he has for most of the season, Pallonetti led the team with five goals and added an assist. He now has 45 goals on the year, which is the sixth-most in the NCAA. His 3.46 goals per game is the ninth-most goals per game in the nation.
Though he is making a bid for an All-American nod, Pallonetti was humble about his scoring numbers after the game.
“It’s cool, but it’s kind of just a credit to my teammates,” Pallonetti said. “We’re all playing … it just happens to find the back of the net pretty often.”
Armitage scored one goal and led the team with three assists. Huber and Anderson both earned hat tricks with three goals each. Behlen scored one goal alongside two assists. Miele-Estrella, Button and Dechiaro each contributed a goal and an assist.
Sabella and defender Sean Conk co-led the team with two caused turnovers each. Long stick midfielder Christian Lowd also caused one turnover. Sabella and Lowd both scooped up five ground balls to lead the team.
Stony Brook will now turn the page to its Long Island rivals: the Hofstra Pride. The Battle of Long Island has huge playoff implications, as the winner of the game clinches a spot in the CAA postseason tournament. The Pride are currently 5-8 and 3-3 in the CAA after blowing out Hampton 15-4 on Saturday. No matter what happens between Stony Brook and Hofstra, the Seawolves would still clinch a playoff berth if Towson loses to No. 13/15 Delaware on Saturday.