Decade of dominance: SBU women’s lax earns 10th straight NCAA tournament bid


For any college, getting to the NCAA Tournament is always a special accomplishment. Sometimes it takes years for a college to finally punch their ticket to the big dance and there are some schools that get there on a regular basis.

Just think about what it takes for a college program to get to an NCAA Tournament for ten straight years.

That’s exactly what Stony Brook University’s women’s lacrosse team has done. The lady Seawolves (14-3, 7-0 CAA) are NCAA Tournament bound for the 10th straight year and will open this year’s tournament on Friday at 3 p.m. when they take on Penn State (11-6, 3-3 Big 10) in Baltimore.

“It’s awesome,” said head coach Joe Spallina, now in his 12th year at the helm of the Seawolves.

“Every year, the team has its own identity. You have a lot of kids experiencing it for the first time and you have a lot of kids experiencing it for the last time. You want to try and keep enlightening the younger players who are doing it for the first time. For players who are going through it for their last time, they want to savor every moment.”

Stony Brook earned an at-large bid last season after winning eight consecutive America East championships, and this year, they have become champions of the Colonial Athletic Association for the first time.

After 20 years of competing in the America East, Stony Brook University made the decision to join the Colonial Athletic Association. This season marks the Seawolves’ first in the CAA, and they made their presence known by clinching the conference championship.

Ellie Masera, Hailey Duchnowski, Kailyn Hart and Clare Levy were named to the CAA All-Tournament Team with Masera earning Most Outstanding Performer honors with nine goals and five assists for 14 points to go along with 19 draw controls.

Those weren’t the only honors for Stony Brook this season.

Masera was named CAA Midfielder of Year and was joined on the All-CAA First Team by teammates Hart and Levy while Morgan Mitchell, Jaden Hampel, Charlotte Verhulst and Haley Dillon were named to the All-CAA Second Team. Spallina earned CAA Coach of the Year honors, the seventh time in his career that he was named conference Coach of the Year.

It’s been a pretty good decade of lacrosse for Stony Brook and this is a heck of a way to get started with a new conference.

“You always want to put your best foot forward,” said Spallina. “You want to flex and let them know who you are. Our goals and our aspirations are obviously higher than just winning a conference title.”

Winning the conference is just step one for Stony Brook. The next step is a big, physical Penn State squad out of the Big Ten that had a big win this season over Maryland, one of the top teams in the country.

The Seawolves spent this week doing their homework on the Nittany Lions.

“I think this is an interesting time of the year because you don’t have a really have a ton of time to prepare for teams,” said Spallina. “We have a ton of respect for Penn State. We know that we have to put our best foot forward. Postseason lacrosse, like any other sport is a little different. The stakes are higher. Every play means a little bit more.”

Stony Brook is 2-0 all-time against Penn State, but this will be the first meeting between the schools in the NCAA Tournament.

If the Seawolves can knock off the Nittany Lions on Friday, it would set up a meeting with the winner of the Loyola Maryland/Fairfield winner on Sunday.

The Stony Brook Women’s Lacrosse program is a true Long Island success story.

After a run as Head Coach of Division II Adelphi, Spallina made the move to Division I and has turned Stony Brook into a nationally-ranked team. Stony Brook certainly faced some challenges in terms of national recruiting, but what they were able to do is build the program with some home cooking.

“In order for us to become a mainstay on the national scene, we knew we had to win the Island and we had to do a good job of recruiting top Long Island kids,” said Spallina who has guided Stony Brook to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals four times in their last five appearances.

“We knew the only way to do that was being successful. We don’t have a 70,000-seat football stadium.  We don’t have budgets that go through the roof. We have a successful program that’s built on relationships and respect and love amongst our players and our families.”

Long Island is one of the biggest hotbeds for lacrosse in the United States. It’s only fitting that many of the best players in the world come from Long Island and that local colleges should be a destination for those top players.

Stony Brook is proof that success can start and continue right here on Long Island.

Top: The Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team celebrating after a big win this season. (Credit: Craig Chase/CAA)