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Women’s Lacrosse Aims for a National Championship

Bobble bobble
Stony Brook WLAX
Women’s Lacrosse head coach Joe Spallina with star players, from left, Anna Tesoriero, Courtney Murphy, and Brooke Gubitosi.

Last week, the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team clobbered Hartford 21-3, remaining one of only two undefeated teams in the NCAA. A total of 17 players scored in the game as redshirt senior Courtney Murphy broke the NCAA Division I record for career goals.

It would have been a remarkable day for any team, but for these Seawolves, outstanding success has become the norm.

For the first time in program history, Stony Brook women’s lacrosse is ranked No. 1 nationally in all three major polls — Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA), Cascade/Inside Lacrosse and Nike/US Lacrosse.

Next on the team’s agenda is a home game vs. a strong Johns Hopkins squad on Friday, April 13 – which is also  Kylie Ohlmiller Bobblehead Day, celebrating the Seawolves captain and two-time All-American.

For Ohlmiller ’18, the magic on the lacrosse field in 2018 has been years in the making.

Last year, the team had its best season to date, finishing 20-2, but fell to Maryland in the NCAA Quarterfinal round after winning a fifth-straight America East title. Despite that disappontment, forces were aligning for the Seawolves.

“It’s all about team chemistry,” said Kylie, the star attacker for the Seawolves and one of the top women’s lacrosse players in the country.

Bobblehead doll
Kylie matches her bobble-head doll, bobble for bobble.

That chemistry has been nurtured since the players’ early adolescence, through endless practice sessions and hard-fought games.

The team is homegrown: 28 of the Seawolves’ 34 roster players are from Long Island. Much of their success at Stony Brook can be attributed to how well they know each other. They are keyed into one another’s thinking, personalities and instincts.

You can’t train for that.

“We know one another’s strengths and try to set each other up for the best opportunities to use those strengths,” said Kylie, a biology major in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Recent results suggest that formula is working brilliantly. During the current season, Stony Brook set two major Division I single-season statistical records with 576 points and 222 assists.

Kylie made history last year when she set the National Collegiate Athletic Association single-season record with 78 goals and 86 assists for 164 points, surpassing the record of 148 in 2001. Among her accomplishments: She is a Team USA member and has been named the first Tewaaraton Award finalist at Stony Brook, as well as America East Offensive Player of the Year and IWLCA Division I Attacker of the Year. The Tewaaraton Award is the Heisman Trophy of lacrosse.

But it isn’t only the intersecting backgrounds of the players that has catapulted this team to uncharted territories. The Seawolves’ rise can be traced back to 2012, when Joe Spallina, former head coach of women’s lacrosse at Adelphi University, took the reins.

Spallina has built the women’s lacrosse program on belief, and the women who represent the team have bought into his conviction.

WLAX victory
The team celebrates a victory over Vermont.

“They are a part of something special and have now become the gold standard for the Stony Brook Athletics Department,” Spallina said.

Having already established their character as role models among the University’s fast-growing athletics program, the team members are committed now to one goal: to win the NCAA championship trophy. Appropriately enough, the national championship will be held here at Stony Brook this Memorial Day weekend.

“It’s a great feeling to know that we can win a national championship on our own field, especially since it’s never been done before,” said Courtney Murphy, a senior who last Thursday became the NCAA’s all-time career goal scorer with 292 in just 77 games.

Courtney, who is majoring in business management in the College of Business, turned down an internship on Wall Street to play another year of lacrosse.

“Playing on Stony Brook’s lacrosse team means the world to me,” she said. “I have no regrets and I’m glad to have an extra year at Stony Brook to play my favorite sport. It’s a win-win situation, as I get to play another year with an unbelievable team and get my master’s at the same time.”

“To be the No. 1 team in the country right now is the result of all the hard work and dedication we have put in as a team,” said Courtney, who also set the program records for single-season and career goals in 2016 and became the first 100-goal scorer in Division I history. In 2016, she was named first-team All-American and first-team Mid-Atlantic All-Region selection by the IWLCA.

Kylie agreed.

“It’s definitely surreal to see how much the program has grown,” she said. “I came here on Coach Spallina’s vision,  and turning this program into the No. 1-ranked team in the country has been quite an exciting journey.”

Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron is justifiably proud of the team.

“Stony Brook’s lacrosse women have always had tremendous belief that they could compete with anyone in the nation, and they are continuing to prove it this year,” he said. “We will continue playing at an elite level and give it our best shot. The target only gets bigger when you are ranked No. 1.”

One part of the team’s success is the impenetrable defense, and any cornerstone to a strong defense starts between the posts and goalkeeper.

Goalie Anna Tesoriero ’19 anchors that strength and was named America East Defensive Player of the Week by the conference office on March 12. Anna now has a .547 save percentage in the cage and a 6.87 goals-allowed average so far this year. She has been undefeated this year in the net, advancing her career record to 43-6 at Stony Brook.

“It feels amazing to be ranked No. 1, but it’s important to keep working hard during every game because that top spot can be taken away with just one slip up,” said Anna, a nursing major.

Spallina constantly reminds his players that defense remains the staple of the team. “He has been able to bring out the best in me and help me reach my full potential,” Anna said.

“We made it to the Elite Eight last year, so we are pushing ourselves harder this year to make it to the National Championship,” said Brooke Gubitosi, a redshirt senior defender majoring in multidisciplinary studies.

In the end, the team would agree, it’s all about enhancing awareness of Stony Brook’s  commitment to excellence in every field.

“Our aspiration is to continue to compete on a national level so that we can increase awareness about our great University,” Heilbron said. “The women’s lacrosse team embodies everything that is possible at Stony Brook.”

–Suzanne Mobyed

 

 

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