Fall Ball Focus: How Can Stony Brook Take That Next Step?

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Joe Spallina expects an All-American season from Jaden Hampel in 2023.


It’s been an all-too common theme for the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team.

The Seawolves make noise in the regular season, head coach Joe Spallina voices his displeasure over the No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament and the quest to earn the program’s first trip to the NCAA semifinals falls agonizingly short at North Carolina, the No. 1 team in the country.

Two years ago, it was the Ally Kennedy and Taryn Ohlmiller-led Seawolves who lost at UNC, 14-11, in the quarterfinals.

Last year, it was a stout defense backstopped by Charlie Campbell in the cage falling just short, losing to the eventual national champions, 8-5, at Dorrance Field in the Seawolves’ fourth Elite Eight appearance in the last five seasons.

How can Stony Brook make that next step as a program?

“We’ve got to take care of our regular season a little bit better. We’ve got to win those marquee games on our schedule to be a top-four seed,” Spallina said. “And if not, you have to win a big road game to get where we want to go.”

Spallina said his team needs to take care of business at LaValle Stadium, which it has — the Seawolves enter the 2023 season on a 28-game winning streak, the second-longest active home winning streak in the country.

This year, Michigan, Syracuse, Stanford, Northwestern and Rutgers — five teams in USA Lacrosse Magazine’s Early Top 25 — are those critical marquee non-league games as Stony Brook competes in the Colonial Athletic Association for the first time after departing the America East.

There’s certainly reason for optimism, as the Seawolves return the majority of their attack, led by Ellie Masera (67 goals, 20 assists, 100 draw controls), Kailyn Hart (64 goals, 14 assists) and Jaden Hampel (21 goals, 21 assists, 22 draw controls) and all of the nation’s top-ranked defense, anchored by Haley Dillon.







LAST SEASON

The NCAA tournament was eerily similar for the Seawolves, who finished 16-3. Not only did they get the same No. 8 seed, but they defeated Rutgers at home again to get back to the Elite Eight where they fell to the Tar Heels by just three goals.

As far as those big non-league games Spallina referenced, the Seawolves went 4-2 against teams ranked in the Top 25 nationally. They opened the season with a hard-fought one-goal loss at Syracuse before knocking off Florida by one on the road.

After a 16-12 loss at Northwestern, Stony Brook beat Johns Hopkins, Princeton and Yale.

BIGGEST FALL QUESTION

Who replaces Charlie Campbell?

There’s so much talent returning for the Seawolves, but there’s no clear candidate to replace Charlie Campbell, who transferred from Virginia for her fifth season and was tremendous in the Seawolves’ cage.

Spallina called the goaltending situation “fluid” with an open competition between transfer Shanna Hecht from Temple, freshman Francesca Viteritti and redshirt sophomore Aaliyah Jones this fall likely continuing into the preseason.

“Our defense is lock down, No. 1 defense in the country, return all the pieces,” Spallina said. “We don't let up a lot of shots. Make the saves you’re supposed to make. That's it. That's all we're asking.”

MARQUEE ADDITION: JOLIE CREO

A stacked attack that averaged 14.8 goals per game became even better with the addition of transfer Jolie Creo from Holy Cross, where she had 56 goals and 82 points and was sixth in the country with 5.47 points per game as a junior.

“Jolie’s a big-time scorer. It's just getting her to understand she's got different kinds of pieces around her,” Spallina said. “So, she's learning to play within our offense. She's learning a new offense. It takes time.”

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: ALEX FUSCO

The sophomore earned more minutes as the 2022 season went on, scoring five goals in 14 appearances. But Spallina believes she’s ready to take the next step for the Seawolves.

“Alex Fusco is ready to take that next step,” Spallina said. “She checks three boxes for us. We place so much emphasis on defense where her numbers may not be eye popping, but she's going to be key. She’s scoring goals, key defensive stops, and then being able to help us in the clear.”

Spallina also lauded freshman Kylie Budke, a dynamic dodger from nearby Mount Sinai (N.Y.) and junior midfielder Jaden Hampel, who he’s expecting “an All-American caliber season” from in the spring.

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