2022 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 5 Stony Brook (Women)

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Ellie Masera had 17 goals, 13 ground balls and 25 draw controls as a freshman.


The 2022 college lacrosse season is nearly upon us. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 5 STONY BROOK

2021 Record: 16-3 (8-0 America East)
Final Ranking (2021): No. 5
Coach: Joe Spallina (11th season)

It’s not a secret anymore. Joe Spallina, head coach of the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team, never backs away from an opportunity to hype up his team.

Sometimes, the hype is met with questions. Like when the program graduated all-time greats Kylie Ohlmiller and Courtney Murphy after the 2018 season, onlookers reasonably scratched their heads when Spallina insisted there wouldn’t be a drop off.

There would be no rebuilding period. Stony Brook proceeded to finish 16-5 in 2019, winning a first-round NCAA tournament game before falling in the next round to Maryland.

It wasn’t surprising for Spallina to hear similar questions this offseason on the heels of the graduations of Ally Kennedy and Taryn Ohlmiller. Still, the ever-confident Spallina remains, well, confident.

“I love this team. I think we’re, top to bottom, so fast and so athletic,” he said in the fall. “It will be more of a sum of its parts than it’s been in the past, but we’ve got some pieces in there that are super dynamic. They just aren’t household names yet.”

There are a few returning players Spallina can bank on. Rayna Sabella and Siobhan Rafferty are back as stable contributors in the midfield, as is Sarah Pulis, who enjoyed a 12-goal, eight-assist season in 2021.

Clare Levy, who Spallina credits as the type of player that allows his team to be more flexible in its defensive packages, never played club lacrosse growing up but has emerged as arguably the top defender in the America East.

NIKE/USAL PRESEASON TOP 20
TEAM PREVIEWS

1. Boston College

2. North Carolina

3. Syracuse

4. Northwestern

5. Stony Brook

6. Maryland

7. Notre Dame

8. Duke

9. Loyola

10. Florida

11. Virginia

12. James Madison

13. Princeton

14. Stanford

15. Denver

16. Rutgers

17. Drexel

18. Jacksonville

19. UConn

20. Penn

Then there are the transfers, Charlie Campbell (Virginia) and Kyla Zapolski (Albany), who will fortify the goal and midfield, respectively. But that’s about where the knowns end and the question marks begin.

Ellie Masera is the next Ally Kennedy, in Spallina’s opinion. She might even prove to be better. A speedy midfielder with an aggressive mindset, she’s an all-around offensive player who will be thrust into the largest role of her young career. Alongside her will be Jaden Hampel, who “is going to pop” this year, Spallina said.

The list goes on and on with this roster. Charlotte Verhulst and Kira Accettella are looking like possible breakouts. Kailyn Hart, who already has a nice collection of highlights on SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays” is an offensive force in the making.

Spallina’s new-look team also comes with new faces (well, sort of) on the coaching staff. Kim Hillier left for her first head coaching job at Drexel, and volunteer assistant Kylie Ohlmiller is no longer with the program. Kennedy was brought on to fill Ohlmiller’s role, while Sydney Pirreca is Spallina’s new assistant.

So, will there be a drop off? Stony Brook is the owner of the longest in-conference winning streak in NCAA sports, having won 54 straight against America East foes.

In what could be Stony Brook’s final season in the conference — rumors have circulated that Stony Brook could join the CAA — Spallina is steadfast in his belief that the Seawolves will again be a national power.






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TOP RETURNERS

Ellie Masera, M, So.

The youngest player to train with the U.S. women’s national team in 2021, Masera is a speedy, shifty, crafty midfielder with a nose for the goal. Spallina takes every chance he gets to talk up her game, and for good reason. His instant comparison for Masera is Ally Kennedy, who graduated in May as one of Stony Brook’s all-time greats. As a freshman, Masera had 17 goals, 13 ground balls and 25 draw controls.

Rayna Sabella, M, Grad.

A Swiss army knife, Sabella shifted to defense last year out of necessity and earned national recognition. A true midfielder, Sabella should make an impact everywhere this season. She was a vacuum in her first full-time gig as a defender, securing 32 ground balls.

Clare Levy, D/M, Sr.

Spallina calls her the best defender he’s ever coached. Levy, who surprisingly never played club lacrosse growing up, started in her collegiate debut against No. 1 North Carolina last February. She proceeded to start all 19 games, tallying 24 ground balls, 25 caused turnovers and 29 draw controls. Something of a late bloomer, Levy is a name to watch.

KEY ADDITIONS

Kyla Zapolski, M, R-Fifth Year and Charlie Campbell, G, Gr.

Both Zapolski and Campbell are instant starters, so Spallina had a difficult time choosing. Who can blame him? Zapolski was an under-appreciated talent at Albany, where she compiled 126 goals, 24 assists and 84 ground balls in four seasons. Campbell is an ACC transfer from Virginia who’s saved 42.9 percent of shots in her career.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE

Kira Accettella, M, Jr.

Accettella has played 19 games at Stony Brook, with four starts in her freshman season. She’s someone who can contribute everywhere, but she made improvements on the offensive end in 2021. She scored 11 goals — including her first career hat trick against Hartford — and shot 84.2 percent on goal. A deep midfield is made even deeper if Accettella indeed reaches another level.

ENEMY LINES

What rival coaches say about the Seawolves:

“They’re going to be different in a lot of ways. Just some new faces that are going to be the main players. They are tough, and they are feisty, and they don’t care. They just go hard. In order to play them, you have to be prepared or be able to match it and stay composed.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

2.91

There may not be a team with bigger shoes to fill than Stony Brook. Losing Ally Kennedy, Taryn Ohlmiller and Kaeli Huff, among others, means that the Seawolves only return 34 percent of their offensive production from last season. Keep an eye on Kira Accetella, though. As a sophomore, she had a 2.91 uaEGA rating. On a scale of 0-100, that puts her in the 97th percentile. — Zack Capozzi

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