October 25, 2011

Fall Ball Brief

New Team, New Approach For Stony Brook Women

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Claire Petersen, shown here playing New Hampshire at the UMass fall ball tournament, led Division II in scoring by a 60-point margin last season. The transfer has emerged as the focal point of Stony Brook's attack.

© John Risley

As soon as he was hired as Stony Brook women's lacrosse coach, Joe Spallina hit the phones. Building a fall ball schedule would be a top priority for his Seawolves, whose roster, with 10 incoming freshman and four transfers arriving with Spallina from Adelphi, is 50 percent new.

"We're looking to change the culture right away," said Spallina, who guided Adelphi to the past three NCAA Division II championships.

So far, so good. The Seawolves wrapped up a highly successful fall season Sunday at Manhasset High School on Long Island, falling 13-4 to Syracuse before bouncing back with a 15-6 win over Fairfield.

Fall Ball Priority: Integrate a new system and develop chemistry.

Stony Brook will play an up tempo offense, similar to the style Adelphi rode to three consecutive Division II national championships. The fall allowed the Seawolves to acclimate to the tempo. Overnight road trips were also critical in developing chemistry on such a drastically made over team.

Know This Name: Michelle Rubino. Rubino flew under the radar a bit at Comsewogue High School on Long Island and didn't play club lacrosse, but she should score in bunches for the Seawolves. Spallina originally recruited Rubino to play for Adelphi and said she has improved all fall.

Nice To Meet You: The 2012 Seawolves will look very different from the 2011 edition that went 4-11. In addition to Adelphi transfers Claire Petersen, Frankie Caridi, Emily Mercier and Demmianne Cook, Stony Brook features 10 freshmen, several of whom should see serious playing time. Three of those freshmen had originally been recruited to play at Adelphi.

"We're deeper than I thought we'd be," Spallina said.

Petersen Going Next Level: For the past two seasons, Claire Petersen dominated Division II at Adelphi. The junior attack led D-II in scoring by a 60-point margin last season. She's had no trouble adjusting to Division I this fall and has emerged as the focal point of Stony Brook's high-flying attack. Expect to see Petersen among NCAA's scoring leaders once again.

In the Cage: After last season's Division II championship, Spallina joked that he should get goalie Frankie Caridi to sign with Major League Lacrosse's Long Island Lizards, for which Spallina is an assistant coach. No word whether they pursued her, but the Lizards' loss is Stony Brook's gain. The sophomore will start from day one for the Seawolves. A first-team All-American as a freshman for Adelphi, Caridi's steadiness in the net gives Stony Brook confidence to run its high-flying, high-risk offense.

Verdict: There is no doubt the Seawolves will be better than they were last year, the question is how much better? The team has had no problem hanging with teams this fall and Sunday's loss to Syracuse, Spallina said, wasn't as much about a talent gap, but nerves.

"I think they were a little starstruck," Spallina said. "A little bit of seeing that 'S' on their shirts. What Syracuse did to us today, we did to four other teams yesterday."

The America East has a tendency to produce giant killers. Last season, Albany ran the table in the regular season and did not lose until facing eventual national champion Northwestern in the second round of the NCAAs. Stony Brook looks primed for similar success.

"We expect to win the America East," Spallina said. "We can be a team in the top 20. We believe we can be that Albany type team."

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