Stony Brook's softball team is one victory away from its second consecutive America East Conference title and third automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. When the Seawolves (34-16) meet Albany (31-11) in the title game at 11 a.m. Sunday, coach Megan Bryant will send pitcher Allison Cukrov to the circle.
Cukrov, a junior from Irvine, California, and two-time conference pitcher of the year, will gladly accept the starting assignment.
"Honestly, I love it. I love to play,'' Cukrov said in an interview before the conference tournament, which is hosted by Stony Brook. "Any time I can have the ball in my hand, I think that's a good day for me.''
Bryant has been recruiting players from the West Coast for years, and they do not seem to mind the shift in weather.
"I think West Cast-East Coast is a good fit culturally,'' Bryant said. "Allie is an outstanding student, as well, so she was looking for a place where she could get a great education and still play Division I softball.''
Cukrov agreed, saying, "Stony Brook is one of the schools where I could study what I study and play a high level of softball.'' Her major is sustainability studies. "It's like a discipline of environmental science,'' she said. "We look at the human impact on the environment. Climate change, things of that nature.''
Cukrov, who has won 19 straight decisions, is 23-7 with a 1.89 ERA. She limited Maryland-Baltimore County to three hits and one run in a 16-1 rout in the first round of the tournament. She then tossed six scoreless innings against Albany in a 9-0 victory that put the Seawolves in the championship. Albany would have to beat Stony Brook twice to earn the title.
Cukrov was 25-10 with a 1.94 ERA in her freshman year. She dropped to 15-16 with a 2.92 ERA last season, though she rebounded to lead the Seawolves to the conference title.
"I think the first year she was new,'' Bryant said. "She took a lot of people by surprise. And the second year, people were figuring her out just a little bit more. And now she's matured a great deal and has a lot of experience under her belt.''
Cukrov, who is 63-33 for Stony Brook, said: "I think last year was a little bit bumpier just because I wasn't a new face, people had seen me, there were scouting reports, things like that. So it is tougher to be good when you've seen people before and it is the same thing with hitters. When you get their number, everyone has to make adjustments, so I think last year was an adjustment.''