Blogs and Commentary

posted 06.17.2011 at 10.37 a.m. by Clare Lochary

Spallina the Seawolf

Joe Spallina led Adelphi to three national titles. He has similar aspirations at Stony Brook.

After three straight NCAA Division II women's lacrosse titles and many claims that Adelphi could take on the best teams in Division I, Joe Spallina is going big league. The former Panthers coach and current Long Island Lizards assistant has taken the head coaching job at Division I Stony Brook – just down the road from Adelphi but a world away in terms of competition.

Or maybe not.

Spallina seems confident he can get the Seawolves atop the America East and in the national polls pretty quickly. Read on for more from Joe Spa, including the ever-elusive definition of what a Seawolf actually is.

You and Stony Brook seem like a great fit. Who approached who first?

It was mutual interest. It made sense for them, and it made sense for me, me being from eastern Long Island.

Stony Brook AD Jim Fiore said that the Seawolves are committed to a team that has “a national profile and annually competes for the America East championship.” You’ve had championship success at the Division II level – is there pressure to recreate it at Division I?

That was one of the things that attracted me to the school, besides the proximity. Speaking with [executive associate athletic director and former Penn lacrosse player] Donna Woodruff and Tim Fiore, they had me hook, line and sinker. They have a great vision of Stony Brook. They’ve made it clear that this is the place to be. It starts right there.

Do you expect to bring some of your Adelphi players to SBU?

I can’t really speculate on transfers.

You’re currently out on the recruiting trail for the first time as a Division I coach. Are you looking for something different?

We’re out recruiting for next year’s class. The Adelphi roster, when I left there, it was something where I could compete in the Division I, top 15, nationally. We’re still looking for that type of kid, a kid who’s a raw athlete who we can shape. We’ll shake the trees and turn over the rocks looking for them. We’ll make a good kid great and a great kid amazing.

Have you made any decisions about assistant coaches yet?

Caitlin Defliese is definitely coming with me from Adelphi. She’s a Boston University alum, so she’s had some familiarity with the America East. It’s also important with my style of coaching that I have people around me that I trust and buy into what we’re doing. There will be a national search for the other position.

Are you still going to teach at Rocky Point (N.Y.) High School? What about your commitment to the Long Island Lizards?

Rocky Point, I’m just going down the home stretch with the last week of school. The MLL, I’ll be maintaining my commitment there. The MLL actually helped with recruiting at Adelphi. It gives me a connection with the kids, or their dads or brothers think it’s cool. “Hey, my coach is on TV!”

Are you going to be able to play the kind of game you had at Adelphi fast-moving, midfield-oriented – right out of the gate at Stony Brook?

The Stony Brook athletes, they have an opportunity to make a first impression once again. We started sessions with last year’s game film. There are some things that need to get tweaked or changed completely, and we’ll try to implement our style of play immediately. It’s not about how we get out of the gate, but how we get to the finish line.

We’ll forge a very competitive fall season and try to play the best teams and find every deficiency now. I’d rather learn about it in September than in January. I’m working on getting into the George Mason tournament, which had some great opponents for us last year. We’ll try to get into the Colleluori tournament at Hofstra too. I’m trying to close out the fall schedule just now. I’ve reached out to the returning players, and one of the things they said they wanted was to play a more competitive schedule.

Is the spring 2012 schedule set yet? I imagine a lot of schools will want to play at Stony Brook for the opportunity to test out the 2012 NCAA championship venue.

I know Duke has added us to their schedule and a bunch of top-15 teams that have expressed interest. I realize why they’re doing that. The big thing for me, and for everyone out there, is that if you’re going to get us, you’d better get us now. We’re going to build something that’s going to take a little bit of time. We’re going to keep chopping wood and working hard and get a quality program – a consistent, quality program – going. We want to get to be somebody’s who’s up in the top 20 every year.

Watching that 2011 Stony Brook game film, were there any players who jumped out at you, who you think might work well in your system?

Tara Gerstacker could fit into the style of defense we play, and Alyssa Cardillo, a Farmingdale grad I know really well, was a conference All-Rookie recipient.

Finally: what in the world is a Seawolf?

[Laughs] Halfway through the whole application process, my wife and I were taking a tour of the campus, and she stopped and said, “OK, I need to know. What the hell is a Seawolf?!” And the answer is it’s a mythical creature that supposedly brings you good luck if you see it.

Will you need some good luck in your first season as a Seawolf?

I can tell you we’re going to work our tails off to make sure we do.