Stony Brook's Larissa Nysch leaps into the arms of Tessa...

Stony Brook's Larissa Nysch leaps into the arms of Tessa Devereaux in celebration during the America East Championship final. (Nov. 4, 2012) Credit: Steve McLaughlin

With many of the university's athletic programs making the NCAA Tournament in recent years, players on the women's soccer team at Stony Brook were determined to join the postseason ranks.

The America East champion Seawolves have made the NCAAs and will play at Maryland (13-6-2) on Saturday at 7 p.m. Hofstra, the CAA champ, plays at Boston College (10-7-3) on Friday at 7 p.m.

This will be the first NCAA postseason appearance for the women's soccer team at Stony Brook, which started the sport in 1983.

"We won four games last year,'' said Larissa Nysch, who scored Stony Brook's goal in its 1-0 victory over Hartford for the conference championship. "Last year when the men's team was going to get the rings sized, I said, 'We're winning this thing next year.' We actually did it.''

Albeit the hard way. Stony Brook (9-6-3) became the first sixth seed to capture the title. "We told ourselves every day, we can do it,'' goalkeeper Ashley Castanio said.

Tournament most outstanding player Sa'sha Kershaw, who is from Maryland, added, "It was even better how we did it because all of our games were road games.''

Coach Sue Ryan, who has guided the team since 1985, said her group "learned how to play without fear. When you put it all out there, I think good things happen.''

As for Hofstra, the freshmen- and sophomore-dominated team wasn't expecting to make the NCAA Tournament.

"I was hoping we'd get a win in the first round [of the CAA tournament] with such a young team,'' coach Simon Riddiough said. "You want to set a precedent with them of experiencing a win in playoffs.''

The Pride has won three straight, including Sunday's 2-1 victory over UNC Wilmington on Sam Scolarici's goal in double overtime.

"Of course every forward wants it to come down to them,'' she said. "If it wasn't me, I would have been just as happy.''

Hofstra (10-8), making its fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, lost its last three games of the regular season. "That put us down a little bit,'' Lulu Echeverry said. "At the same time, it gave us the energy to say 'Hey, we're better than this.' ''

Long Island colleges will be well represented in the NCAA Tournament. In Division II, the LIU Post men's team (18-1) and women's team (15-2-2) have first-round byes and the Dowling women (11-3-2) will meet Southern New Hampshire (13-5-3). In Division III, the men's team at St. Joseph's (13-9) plays York of Pennsylvania (17-2-2) and the Farmingdale women (13-7-0) play Williams College (12-3-2).

One champion already has been crowned as the Briarcliffe men won the USCAA title for small schools.

It occurred in Asheville, N.C., on Sunday after quite an odyssey. The team bus left Bethpage at 4 a.m. Wednesday and it turned into a 27-hour trip as the bus, according to assistant coach Nikita Gordon, had to stop to have air put in the tires, then broke down in New Jersey.

A replacement bus ran low on gas, necessitating another stop. Then, in Virginia, the bus hit a deer. The team arrived at its destination at 7 a.m. Thursday. The ordeal was worth it as Briarcliffe won three games en route to the title.

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