With the 2023 NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament set to kick off, the Seawolves (14-3, 7-0 CAA) find themselves taking on the No. 20 Penn State Nittany Lions as an unseeded team. Penn State will be vying for its sixth national championship after receiving an at-large bid from the selections committee, while Stony Brook will be trying to win its first.
The game will be hosted at Ridley Athletic Complex, the home of the No. 9 Loyola Maryland Greyhounds. Opening draw is scheduled for Friday, May 12 at 7 p.m.
The Seawolves enter the tournament riding a five-game winning streak, with all wins coming over conference opponents. The team’s recent play has catapulted them in the national statistical leaderboards on both sides of the ball. Stony Brook owns the 10th-best scoring offense in the nation, averaging 15.35 goals per game.
Midfielder Ellie Masera headlines the elite offense. She ranks fifth in the nation in goals per game with 3.94 and seventh in goals with 67. This season, Masera took home the 2023 CAA Midfielder of the Year award and was included in USA Lacrosse Magazine’s 2023 All-American First Team and the 2023 All-CAA First Team. She was awarded a spot on the 2023 CAA All-Tournament Team and won the Most Outstanding Player award.
Attacker Kailyn Hart is second on the team in goals (48) and assists (23). The All-CAA First Team honoree is on fire as of late, posting at least a hat trick in each of her last eight games. Hart was a 2023 All-American honorable mention by USA Lacrosse Magazine. She earned a spot next to Masera on the CAA All-Tournament Team.
Attacker Morgan Mitchell had a breakout year for the Seawolves. She was the team’s third-leading scorer with 60 points (42 goals, 18 assists) and earned a spot on the 2023 All-CAA Second Team.
Another Seawolf that has made a significant impact on offense is attacker Jolie Creo. Spending most of her time on the field at the X behind the cage, she has helped facilitate the offense and set up plenty of catch-and-shoot goals. She leads Stony Brook with 25 assists and also chipped in 13 goals.
Midfielders Jaden Hampel and Charlotte Verhulst joined Mitchell on the All-CAA Second Team. Hampel has been a valuable two-way player for Stony Brook. She has scored 28 goals, dished out 20 assists, scooped up 22 ground balls and controlled 30 draws. Verhulst is another Seawolf that burst onto the scene in 2023. After four goals and three assists through the first three years of her Stony Brook career, she has tallied 23 goals and eight assists this season. Verhulst makes a big impact in the draw circle as well, as she has picked up 53 draw controls, good for third-most on the team.
Midfielder Erin MacQuarrie is another player to look out for. She has scored eight goals and dished out eight assists while picking up 20 ground balls and causing 10 turnovers.
The Seawolves’ defense has played at an elite level this year. They currently rank fourth in the nation in scoring defense, having conceded only 7.82 goals per game.
Defender Haley Dillon is one of the anchors of Stony Brook’s defense. The All-CAA Second Team selection leads the team in caused turnovers (27) and is second in ground balls (28). Defender Clare Levy is another star on the Seawolves’ backline. The USA Lacrosse Magazine 2023 All-American Third Team selection comes into the national tournament second on the team in draw controls (54), fourth in ground balls (25) and fifth in caused turnovers (12). Levy was also selected to the All-CAA First Team and the CAA All-Tournament Team.
Other important assets in Stony Brook’s defense include defenders Ella Whitehouse and Lindsay Rongo. The two have caused 16 turnovers each this year, tying them with Masera for the second-most on the team.
The Seawolves’ weak point throughout the season has been their goaltending, but it has seen a slight improvement as of late. Starting goalkeeper Hailey Duchnowski struggled mightily for most of the season, stopping just 36.2% of shots that came her way in the regular season. During the CAA tournament, Duchnowski put up a 43.8% save percentage, which earned her a spot on the 2023 CAA All-Tournament Team.
Another vital department in which Stony Brook has seen success this season is in the draw circle. The team ranks sixth in the nation in draw control percentage at 60.0%. Masera has 113 draw controls and has controlled 6.65 draws per game, which puts her at 15th in the country.
The Seawolves will face a tough matchup in the circle with Penn State. The Nittany Lions have controlled 52.4% of their draw controls in 2023. In that department, they are led by 2023 All-Big Ten Second Team selection midfielder Kayla Abernathy, who has 72 draw controls on the year.
Penn State’s draw controls have not led it to overwhelming offensive success though. The Nittany Lions are a middle-of-the-road team offensively in their own conference. Out of seven teams in the Big Ten, they were fourth in goals per game (11.88) and fifth in points per game (15.82).
On the offensive end of the field, Penn State is led by midfielder Kristin O’Neill, who was included in the 2023 All-Big Ten First Team. O’Neill leads the Lions in goals (48), points (56), and shots taken (144). Her performance earned her a spot on the USA Lacrosse Magazine All-American Third Team.
In total, the Nittany Lions have four players that have totaled over 20 goals. Penn State attacker Gretchen Gilmore leads Penn State with 12 assists, while also scoring 27 goals. Her performance has earned her a selection to the All-Big Ten Second Team, as well as a spot on the USA Lacrosse Magazine Honorable Mentions list.
Penn State midfielder Meghan Murray has made a big impact on both sides of the ball, tallying 23 goals, nine assists, 20 ground balls and 15 caused turnovers. Her high level of play also earned her a spot on the All-Big Ten Second Team.
Penn State attacker Brooke Hoss is another valuable piece of the Nittany Lions’ offense, as she has scored 26 goals this year. Penn State attacker Kara Nealon has contributed 10 goals and 10 assists.
Defensively, Penn State is one of the best teams in the nation. It leads the Big Ten and is 11th in the nation in caused turnovers per game with 10.24. It is second in its conference in ground balls per game with 17.41.
The Nittany Lions have two defenders who were selections in the All-Big Ten teams. Penn State defender Ellie Hollin was selected to the All-Big Ten First Team and the USA Lacrosse Magazine All-American Honorable Mentions list. She is second on her team in ground balls (29) and caused turnovers (24). Penn State defender Sammy Dupcak leads the team in both of those categories. Dupcak has scooped up 50 ground balls and caused 29 turnovers this season, earning her a spot on the All-Big Ten Second Team.
Other important players in Penn State’s backline include Abernathy and defender Rachel Spilker. Along with her success in the draw control department, Abernathy has picked up 22 ground balls and caused 15 turnovers. Spilker also has picked up 22 ground balls and added 18 caused turnovers.
Similarly to Stony Brook, the Nittany Lions have faced struggles in the cage. They rank last in the Big Ten in saves per game and are second to last in save percentage. Penn State goalkeeper Ashley Bowan has started all 17 games and posted a 42.9% save percentage.
Stony Brook is now appearing in its 10th consecutive NCAA tournament, and it has never been eliminated in the first round. If that trend continues, Stony Brook will face the winner of the game between eighth-seeded Loyola Maryland and Fairfield on Sunday.