A pair of hat tricks from the No. 10 Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team’s dynamic duo guided it into the second round of the 2023 NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament.
Kicking off their pursuit for their first national title, the Seawolves (15-3, 7-0 CAA) took on the No. 20 Penn State Nittany Lions on Friday at Ridley Athletic Complex. Stony Brook struggled to break down the Nittany Lions’ defense for most of the night, but several scoring runs carried it to a 12-8 win.
The game was very back and forth in the first half, and both teams scored in bunches. Stony Brook jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Penn State responded with five unanswered goals. Over the final three minutes of the second quarter, the Seawolves scored on three consecutive possessions to take a 6-5 lead into halftime.
The tight battle continued into the third quarter when Penn State midfielder Meghan Murray tied the game. As the Nittany Lions passed the ball around and tried to create a good look, Murray found a hole in Stony Brook’s zone defense and slipped past defender Clare Levy. As defender Haley Dillon closed in on her, Murray rifled one over the head of goalkeeper Haley Duchnowski and into the back of the cage to tie the game.
Head coach Joe Spallina was impressed by the fightback that Penn State showed his team.
“[Penn State] is a great team,” Spallina said in a postgame interview. “They’re in the tournament for a reason. I thought our kids did a really nice job of answering their plays.”
Stony Brook was not flustered by Murray’s highlight. Over the next four minutes, midfielders Jaden Hampel and Charlotte Verhulst each scored a goal to put the Seawolves back on top 10-8. However, Penn State midfielder Kristin O’Neill showed off her All-American prowess and got the Nittany Lions back with a woman-down goal.
With less than a minute remaining in the third quarter, Murray had a free-position attempt with the opportunity to tie the game again. She drove toward the net and scored on Duchnowski but went one step too far and was called for a crease violation, negating her tying goal.
On the Seawolves’ ensuing possession, Murray picked up a yellow card by slashing attacker Kailyn Hart across her face, which handed them a free-position attempt. Hart took advantage of Murray’s errors and rifled one top shelf to give the Seawolves a 9-7 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
Hart’s goal sparked a 4-0 run for Stony Brook. With under eight and a half minutes remaining, Hart stepped up again with an unbelievable goal to put her team up by three. After receiving a pass from attacker Morgan Mitchell, Hart was swarmed by three Penn State defenders. While trying to create separation, Hart spun around and threw up a shot through the triple team and it leaked past Penn State goalkeeper Ashley Bowan, putting the Seawolves up 10-7.
“Not a usual thing that I do,” Hart said. “It was just something that I felt — the defender on my back. So I rolled back the other way and took a quick shot. I think it was a big pick-me-up goal for us … it helped us get the energy up.”
Hart had an involvement in the Seawolves’ next goal as well. While trying to drive towards the net, she found Verhulst cutting towards the arc. Hart led her perfectly, and Verhulst scored on a behind-the-back shot to give Stony Brook its biggest lead of the game. Midfielder Ellie Masera put the finishing touches on the game with a wraparound goal to extend the lead to 12-7. O’Neill scored with 29 seconds left for consolation, but it was too little, too late.
Spallina credited Stony Brook’s strong finish to a defensive adjustment made at halftime.
“[We] just changed a little bit of the look in our zone,” Spallina said. “We were able to come into different types of zones. I thought we did a good job of adapting that and taking away the one thing that they wanted; forcing them to go through different avenues.”
The game was just as close in the stats sheet as it was on the scoreboard. Stony Brook won the battle in the draw circle, picking up one more draw control (12) than Penn State (11). The Seawolves were also +3 in the turnover differential. Both teams scooped up 15 ground balls each.
Stony Brook’s biggest advantage came in the shots department. The Seawolves fired off 27 shots to the Nittany Lions’ 18. They landed eight more shots on goal (21) than Penn State (13).
Both Masera and Hart tallied hat tricks. Masera’s third goal was her 70th of the season, making her the ninth Seawolf to ever score 70 goals in a season. She also dished out an assist.
Masera credited her teammates around her for her performance.
“I think it’s just our offense,” Masera said. “Our offense is figuring it out at the right time. Hart also had a hat trick, so I give props to her as well.”
Verhulst and Hampel each scored a pair of goals. Verhulst also added an assist. Mitchell and midfielder Erin MacQuarrie both scored one goal apiece. Mitchell led the team with two assists. Attacker Jolie Creo also had an assist.
Levy scooped up a pair of ground balls and led the team with three caused turnovers.
Duchnowski saved five of the 13 shots she faced, good for a 38.5% save percentage. She also picked up four ground balls to lead the team and caused one turnover.
O’Neill led the Nittany Lions with three goals. Penn State attacker Brooke Hoss chipped in a pair of goals. Penn State defenders Ellie Hollin and Sammy Dupcak had productive games as well. Hollin caused three turnovers to lead her team, while Dupcak picked up four ground balls.
Bowan saved nine of the 21 shots that came her way, netting a 42.9% save percentage.
Stony Brook will now get a day to prepare for the No. 9 Loyola Maryland Greyhounds, who are the eighth seed in the NCAA tournament. The Seawolves will be looking to upset the Greyhounds in their own home stadium. Loyola Maryland is coming off an 11-6 win over Fairfield on Friday. Opening draw is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m.
Though Loyola Maryland owns home-field advantage over Stony Brook, Hart is not concerned.
“I don’t think it’s going to be an advantage at all,” Hart said. “I think we’re ready to take on anyone. There’s no one in our way.”