The 200-pound gorilla in the room just laughed. He had tried this trick shot before in practice, but it never worked. "I saved it for the game," Stony Brook midfielder Kevin Crowley joked about his spectacular, game-changing, behind-the-head shot that gave the Seawolves a one-goal lead over Denver in the fourth quarter yesterday.
Stony Brook never gave up that lead, and Crowley added his third goal of the game with 3:37 left to close out the scoring in a 9-7 NCAA Tournament first-round victory before 4,262 fans at LaValle Stadium.
Tom Compitello also scored three goals for eighth-seeded Stony Brook, which earned its first-ever NCAA Tournament men's lacrosse win and will host top-seeded Virginia in the quarterfinals next Sunday.
"They've got a gorilla," Denver coach Bill Tierney affectionately said of the 6-4, 200-pound Crowley, who has 49 goals (one short of the school record) and is one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the nation's top player. "It's tough to stop him. I think Dillon Roy is one of the best poles [defensemen] in the country. If he can't stop him . . . What did Crowley have? Three? And they were all big, powerful goals."
One, of course, was pretty darn fancy, too. Crowley was stick-checked by Roy as he maneuvered on the left wing early in the fourth quarter. But he managed to pick out a high corner and beat goalie Peter Lowell from 10 yards for a 7-6 lead.
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"I knew there was a flag down. He already had gotten the stick up on me," Crowley said. "I practiced that shot a couple of times, but I wasn't really thinking about it at the exact second. I guess the opportunity just came and I let it go."
The Seawolves (13-3) were opportunistic from the start. Their first goal came when defenseman Steven Waldeck intercepted a clearing pass with Lowell out of the net and scored from long range while tumbling to the turf. And faceoff specialist Adam Rand scored his first goal of the season to move Stony Brook within 4-3.
Charlie Paar anchored a rock-solid defense with eight of his nine saves in the second half. Compitello scored an unassisted goal with 9:29 left to make it 8-6. "Personally, it's a dream come true," he said. "This is why you come to college - to compete at the highest level."
According to Tierney, a former Long Island high school coach and six-time national champion at Princeton, the Seawolves' defense was at a high level all night. "They changed up their style on defense. They jumped in our face a little. It was a surprise," he said. "It took us a while to get used to it. In fact, we're still trying."
Mark Matthews had four goals for Denver. Waldeck said that after halftime, when it was 5-5, his unit emphasized defending the crease. "Slide, rotate and recover as one," he said. "We drilled it in practice. You can give up those outside shots when you've got a goalie like we have behind you. We just let Charlie be Charlie."
And Denver couldn't stop Crowley from being Crowley. "He was shooting over my head,'' Roy said. "He got the better of me today."