The transfers who helped the Stony Brook women's lacrosse team earn a national ranking led the way to the program's first NCAA Tournament bid as the Seawolves beat Albany, 14-3, in the America East Tournament final on Sunday at LaValle Stadium.
Florida transfer Janine Hillier of Farmingdale had three goals and three assists and was named the tournament's most outstanding player. The Adelphi transfers weighed in as Demmianne Cook and Emily Mercier each scored three goals and Claire Petersen had a goal and an assist. Farmingdale's Alyssa Cardillo and Connetquot's Amber Kupres scored two each.
Hillier scored two goals in the first 3:38 as Stony Brook (16-2) raced to a 5-0 lead over Albany (12-5), the defending conference champion after beating SBU last season. "We came in this season knowing how we felt last year,'' Hillier said. "We didn't want to feel that way again. We're all just excited to be in the NCAAs. Now we're going to prepare for the next game and take it from there.''
The architect of Stony Brook's success is coach Joe Spallina, who is in his second season after leading Adelphi to three straight national titles. Mercier has been coached by Spallina since her high school years at Rocky Point. "He took me to Adelphi. He's always believed in me,'' the junior midfielder said. "He has made me the player that I am.''
To some extent, Mercier, who has 27 goals, has played in the shadows of Cook and Petersen. "Demi and Claire are great, great players,'' she said. "I look up to them a lot and it's an honor playing with them.''
Albany marked Cook, which limited her touches, and Petersen played about 20 minutes as she recovers from an injury, so there was a need for additional offense. "I knew I would have to step up,'' Mercier said. "And I knew I could do it.''
Spallina said of Mercier: "She is the fifth Beatle. She seemed to get into a different gear today.''
Stony Brook, which won four games in the 2011 season, has become a national contender under Spallina. "We're in. That's a huge step as far as officially arriving as a program,'' he said of making the NCAA Tournament. "I'm happy for the kids who bought into what we were doing and happy for some of the kids [Melissa Rotante, Hannah Perruccio, Kaitlyn Harrison] that were here for the tough years. Just to see the look on their faces how happy these kids are, that's why you do it.''