Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stony Brook Women's lacrosse set to start a new era in 2012

Under new head coach Joe Spallina, the Seawolves look to win their first-ever America East Championship.
It's a new era for Stony Brook women's lacrosse, the university's youngest athletic program, which is in its 10th season of existence. The Seawolves are now under the guidance of Long Island native Joe Spallina, who was named head coach in June 2011 after leading Adelphi to three consecutive Div. II national championships. With 13 returning letterwinners and 14 newcomers, including five transfers, Stony Brook is poised to improve greatly in 2012 and challenge for the America East Championship.

"We are really excited about the progression of the team," Spallina said. "Preseason has been difficult, but all the girls have bought in, and they are playing as a cohesive unit. I feel that we're solid on both ends, and that puts us in a position to have a great season."

Attack

Stony Brook's attack will begin with one of the most talented players in Div. II history in Claire Petersen, who was one of Spallina's transfers from Adelphi. The junior was the 2011 IWLCA National Attacker of the Year after setting the NCAA Div. II single-season record for points (182) and assists (125). She also had 57 goals. Her all-around stick skills will allow her to seamlessly transition to the Div. I level. She will quarterback the offense and use her field vision to score.

Petersen will be joined by a wealth of depth at the attack position. The Seawolves have six other student-athletes capable of contributing to the offense from that position, beginning with returners sophomore Alyssa Cardillo and senior Abby Ford. Cardillo led the Seawolves in scoring last season with 11 goals and 20 assists on her way to America East All-Rookie team honors. She also provides great field vision.

Ford is the team's second leading returning scorer after pouring in nine goals and 20 assists last season. She can play all three attack positions and provides tremendous senior leadership.

Also adding senior leadership on the attack will be captain Jackie Hughes, who did not score in 2011, but had contributed 10 goals in 2010. She had a great fall and will be counted on to contribute.

Joining the attack will be freshman Ava Fitzgerald, who has impressed the coaching staff during the fall and preseason. She is a natural lefty with explosive speed and is expected to make an immediate impact.

Adding depth on the attack are junior Kaitlyn Harrison, who had six goals last season, and sophomore Keira Smith, who missed last season due to injury.

Midfield

The midfield may very well be Stony Brook's biggest strength in 2012, as it will be led by a pair of stellar transfers. Junior Demmianne Cook, one of the team's captains, also comes over from Adelphi with a wealth of talent and accolades. She is the two-time reigning IWLCA Div. II National Midfielder of the Year and is coming off a 2011 season in which she scored 45 goals. A dynamic player with good size, Cook displays explosive speed and power on the field and will be counted on to help on both ends of the field.

Another transfer midfielder that should make an immediate impact is junior Janine Hillier, who comes to the Seawolves after two seasons at Florida. She was an All-American Lacrosse Conference second team selection in 2011 after scoring 34 goals for a Gators team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship in just the program's second season of existence. A very balanced midfielder, Hillier can defend, dodge and shoot and already has big-game experience. She is a star in the making for the Seawolves.

In the midfield and at the draw will be freshman budding star Michelle Rubino. She is a dynamic athlete on the field and has already shown great abilities on the draw during the fall and preseason. She has adjusted to the speed of the collegiate game and will contribute immediately.

The Seawolves will have three other midfielders who show two-way versatility on offense and defense. Sophomore Emily Mercier, another Adelphi transfer, was a major contributor off the bench for the Panthers as a freshman and now brings her talents to Stony Brook. She will contribute on both ends of the field.

Joining Mercier as two-way midfielders will be freshmen Kelly Kuerner and Amber Kupres. Kuerner has turned in an outstanding fall and preseason to move up the depth chart. Kupres, who could also contribute as an attacker, is good off the dodge and cut.

Adding depth at midfielder are sophomore Samantha Citron and freshman Ashley Singer.

Defense

The back line will be anchored by junior captain Melissa Rotante, who started all 15 games last season. She is the team's best pure 1-on-1 defender and plays an aggressive style that leads to caused turnovers.

Joining Rotante will be sophomore Jessica Romano, who missed all of 2011 due to a knee injury. She played in the midfield but her versatility allows her to transition to defense. She too plays an aggressive style and will be counted on to disrupt opponent offensive sets.

Junior Justyne Passarelli is also slated to start, but may miss the beginning of the season due to injury. She was second on the Seawolves in ground balls and caused turnovers last season and was named to the America East All-Academic team for her work in the classroom.

Freshmen Claire Ganoe and Marina Mestres are expected to contribute right away on the defensive end. Ganoe has had a good preseason, and Mestres converted from the midfield. Her height and good stick will allow her to flourish.

Junior Matte Scully and senior Jackie Gentile should also see significant time on the back end, and freshmen Sarah Ehrman and Jenna Agostino have bright futures and will press for action as well.

2011 America East All-Rookie team selection Tara Gerstacker, the team's leader in ground balls and caused turnovers, missed the entire fall due to injury. She will be a major contributor when healthy.

Goalkeeping

Stony Brook's last line of defense will be a strong point with sophomore transfer Frankie Caridi and junior Hannah Perruccio. Caridi, who had a 5.91 goals against average last season at Adelphi, will be the starter and will be expected to translate her success to the Div. I level. She was the 2011 IWLCA Div. II National Goalkeeper of the Year as a freshman. Perruccio has had a great preseason and can be counted on to contribute when called upon.

Schedule

In Spallina's first season, the Seawolves will be challenged by their schedule, which includes four matches against teams that advanced to the NCAA Championship in 2011, including a pair of final four teams in Duke and Maryland.

The Seawolves will open the season with three straight home games at LaValle Stadium, beginning Feb. 11 vs. Colgate, followed by Feb. 15 vs. Manhattan and Feb. 19 vs. Central Connecticut State.

Stony Brook will hit the road for the first time on Feb. 26 at Monmouth and then head to Johns Hopkins on March 3.

On March 5, the Seawolves will host Duke, which advanced to the national semifinals last season. Stony Brook will then play at Florida, an NCAA quarterfinalist last season, on March 14 and at Maryland, the NCAA Championship runner-up, on March 20.

Stony Brook's non-conference schedule wraps up with Marist (March 24), Iona (March 27) and Yale (April 11).

The Seawolves will play a six-match America East schedule with home games against UMBC (April 4), Vermont (April 7) and New Hampshire (April 28) and road games at Binghamton (March 31), Boston University (April 14) and Albany (April 21). The Great Danes are the defending regular season and conference champions and reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship.

The 2012 America East Championship takes place May 3 & 5 on the campus of the regular season champion. Only the top four teams in the league will advance to the tournament.

"Our schedule features a stretch of gams that will prepare us for our tough and competitive conference schedule," Spallina said. "We expect to be one of the best teams in America East this season."