The Stony Brook women's lacrosse team came within one victory of making the NCAA Tournament last season. This season, the goal is even more ambitious.
"It's definitely motivating coming back. We're even more motivated to get ready this spring," senior attack Claire Petersen said. "Our goal is to exceed way past the America East championship, and we look forward to doing so. We're returning all of our starters. Everyone came back better, faster, stronger."
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Stony Brook was transformed by the arrival of Petersen and other transfers from Adelphi, a three-time national champion in Division II. Coach Joe Spallina, who guided those teams at Adelphi, made his debut at Stony Brook, went 14-5 and was named the conference's coach of the year.
"To go from the 60th-ranked team in the country to all of a sudden being relevant in the top 20, that was special stuff," Spallina said of Stony Brook's success. "I know the conference is the first goal for a lot of people. We expect to be in the NCAAs and we expect to go deep into the NCAAs. We have all the key parts back, assuming we can stay healthy. This team is solid and really good in all the key spots."
Petersen is joined by two former Adelphi teammates: midfielder Demmianne Cook and goaltender Frankie Caridi, who missed nine games last season with a knee injury.
"Frankie is healed and cleared and her hand speed is like nothing else," Spallina said.
Spallina is counting on his former stars from Adelphi and other seniors to excel in their final year of eligibility.
"Nothing can ever make up for strong senior leadership," he said. "With Demi, Janine [Hillier], Claire and Melissa [Rotante], they almost served as assistant coaches in making people understand this is their last dance, we have to be successful. I'll take Claire, Demi and Janine. They'd be a top-five trio in the country. When you have three linchpins and you add in a Michelle Rubino, Amber Kupres, we have very, very high expectations."
"We got a little comfortable. We're just college athletes; it's going to happen," Cook said. "If what happened last year didn't happen, we wouldn't be where we are right now as far as being motivated."