Campbell Locks In, Leads Stony Brook in Gritty 11-7 Win Over Rutgers


STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Charlie Campbell enjoyed a stellar career at the University of Virginia, leaving Charlottesville as one of the program’s all-time leaders in saves. 

Campbell wanted to return to her roots. Campbell wanted to come home, which is why she transferred to Stony Brook as a graduate student.

It was for games like Sunday’s NCAA second round game against Rutgers. 

“I loved my time at Virginia, but I wanted to go back to playing tough, gritty, Long Island lacrosse. It ain’t pretty, but it works,” Campbell said. “That’s what I wanted.”

Campbell was a brick wall, making 12 saves to help secure the Seawolves’ 11-7 win over Rutgers at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. Stony Brook advances to the NCAA quarterfinals for the fourth time in the last five years and will meet top-seeded North Carolina, which cruised to a 24-2 win over Virginia in the second round Sunday. It is a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals, won by the Tar Heels at home, 14-11.

“We’re ready for them,” said junior Kaitlyn Hart, who led the Seawolves with three goals Sunday. “They’re a great team there. They’ve been undefeated, so they’re due for a loss, and I think that’s going to be us, so we’re coming for them.”

Rutgers was also a familiar NCAA tournament foe, with Stony Brook beating the Scarlet Knights 20-8 at LaValle in the same round a year ago. 

And when Stony Brook (16-2) raced out to a quick 3-0 lead inside the opening three minutes, it looked like this year’s second-round game would follow a similar script.  But Rutgers (16-5) punched back and responded with four consecutive goals to take a 4-3 lead into the second quarter. 

“This is a very different team than what you saw a year ago today playing against what is always such a strong Stony Brook team,” Rutgers coach Melissa Lehman said. “This Rutgers team is different; different in terms of experience, different in terms of confidence, level of play. I think that is huge. Not just today, but what we saw all season from my group, being able to play and compete with the best of the best teams.”

Stony Brook coach Joe Spallina said his team had to tweak a few things defensively and get back to their roots on that side of the ball, where the Seawolves lead the nation in scoring defense. 

The one constant, though, was Campbell, who took her game to another level after halftime with six third-quarter saves.

“Oh my God, every time she had a kick save, every time I’m screaming, ‘Hell yeah, Charlie.’ I couldn’t be happier for her because she was the one saving our butts at the end of the day,” defender Haley Dillon said. “In the beginning, we struggled a little bit, and she was the one to keep us in tune and keep us motivated to keep working.”

The Scarlet Knights were among the leaders in the country in free position conversions this season, but they were 0-for-7 Sunday with Campbell being a big reason why.

“I think she did a good job reading the body language of our attackers,” Lehman said. “We are good shooters, and good shooters have a good rhythm. I think she was one step ahead on a lot of those shots, and their defense is quick, they get in off the line. So anytime you have great athletes coming at you while you’re shooting, you tend to rush your shot. These are some free positions our team would love to have back.”

Taralyn Naslonski split a pair of defenders to open the scoring in the second half with her second goal of the game and then set up Cassidy Spilis for her second goal of the game 44 seconds later to tie the score at 7 with 12:02 left in the third quarter. Rutgers wouldn’t score again, thanks in large part to Campbell’s heroics. 

“She was awesome. She stepped up in a big way,” Spallina said. “There were some times we were in a little bit of a lull, and she made some saves I thought were jolts. When you get a save like that, it’s the equivalent emotionally of scoring a goal.”

Jesse Arline picked up a ground ball at X, and spun around the cage to give Stony Brook an 8-7 lead with 10:09 left in the third.

Siobhan Rafferty dunked a feed from Jaden Hampel at the crease, and Hart followed with her third goal less than a minute later to extend Stony Brook’s lead to 10-7 with 11:35 left. Ellie Masera made it 11-7 two minutes later with her second goal of the game, as the Seawolves, out of necessity, shared the scoring wealth with seven different players potting goals.

“All of our offensive players are great. All of our goals can come from anywhere at any point,” Hart said. “Today it was just different girls, which is awesome. And I think they showed that they could step up in big games when they’re sliding to Ellie early or sliding to me early or just locking us off, and that’s really key for the Elite Eight.”

Spallina hasn’t been shy about his criticism of his team’s seed, both this year and in the past. But the Seawolves set a goal of winning the national championship on the first day they met. And that likely meant having to play North Carolina at some point in the NCAA tournament. 

And while the Tar Heels are undefeated and the top seed in the tournament, Stony Brook will not be intimidated when they arrive in Chapel Hill. 

“To quote Biggie [Smalls], I don’t fear anyone that breathes the same air as me. We were there twice last year, we played there. They’re awesome,” Spallina said. “Jenny [Levy] and I coach U.S. together. But for 60 minutes, we’re going to try and beat their ass. There’s no fear. Stony Brook will not touch foot on the North Carolina campus with an ounce of fear. We’re going there to win a lacrosse game. We’re not going to bend our knee. We’re not going to kiss the rings. We’re going to win a lacrosse game.”


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