Anna Tesoriero speaks softly and lets her play make the loudest statement.
The fourth-ranked Stony Brook University women’s lacrosse team has had the luxury of leaning on Tesoriero in goal every game the last three seasons, and now the stalwart senior faces a potentially larger role as a team leader.
Given the leadership vacancy created by the graduation of the likes of Kylie Ohlmiller, Courtney Murphy and Brooke Gubitosi, Tesoriero stands out as a candidate to step up.
“She’s a fantastic goalie,” said Mackenzie Burns, a senior defender. “She makes some sick saves, and she keeps us in games. I’m really happy that she’s behind me at all times.”
But Seawolves coach Joe Spallina just wants the normally reserved Tesoriero to focus on her primary duty, while letting the rest fall into place.
“I always feel like leadership is something that happens on its own,” he said. “You have to be careful when you anoint leadership. It has to play into the player’s personality, the ability to lead. That’s something that is just natural.
“It’s something that we’ve allowed Anna to ease into. When she talks, people listen, so we’ve encouraged her to speak up a little bit more. But the most important thing for her is to stop the ball.”
Stopping shots is her specialty. The Huntington product led the nation with a 7.44 goals-against average while posting a .491 save percentage last season. She was an integral, if overlooked piece in Stony Brook’s climb to its first No. 1 ranking in program history.
“She doesn’t get as much recognition as everyone else, but she definitely deserves it,” junior attack Taryn Ohlmiller said.
Tesoriero’s rise to prominence at Stony Brook flew under the national radar, so much like the careers of other Stony Brook greats recruited by Spallina. At Huntington High School, Tesoriero started many games but split time with two other Division I goalkeepers during her time there.
Taylor Moreno (a redshirt sophomore now starting at North Carolina) and Fiona Geier (a senior at American), teamed with Tesoriero to form a goalkeeping triumvirate for the Blue Devils. Tesoriero conceded to one of the other netminders depending on the situation, and she said she “kind of got used to it.”
Then, upon beginning her career at Stony Brook, Tesoriero had to usurp incumbent starter Kaitlyn Leahy, who manned the cage for all 20 games in 2015. In her first career game, Tesoriero made nine saves and allowed three goals in an 18-4 win and never yielded the starting spot from there.
“I think it’s every lacrosse player’s dream to get that, and you always work hard for that, obviously,” Tesoriero said. “But I think the difference is not every player actually gets that experience, so I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity.”
Teammates seem to be in agreement that Tesoriero’s impact on the team isn’t just made inside the crease. Yes, that’s where the action is, but her lacrosse IQ trickles down to the defenders in front of her whom she directs.
With two new defensive starters in Haley Dillon and Rachel Williams joining Burns and Carlee Janelli as returners, Tesoriero’s experience will be pivotal. That aspect of leadership is nothing new for Tesoriero, who always has been praised by defenders for her know-how.
“Being able to see the whole field and who has what matchup, you can see who’s going to dodge or who’s going to feed,” Tesoriero said. “I can let my defense know that we have to be ready for a specific play. It helps them anticipate what might happen in a game.”
Spallina said he saw this in Tesoriero’s future. She played for the Long Island Yellow Jackets “Gold” club team and received valuable experience playing the club circuit, often facing many shots in practices and games.
“We felt like she was a high percentage, big-time player,” Spallina said. “We felt she had tremendous upside. We felt she was a really safe pick as far as a kid being able to knock it out of the park at the next level.”
And even if Tesoriero doesn’t become one of the team’s louder voices, it doesn’t seem like anyone associated with the team would mind. All they care about is the work she does in the cage.
“She has her way of playing,” Burns said. “She’s not going to change who she is. Her playing style is unbelievable.”
The Seawolves open their season Friday at No. 13 Colorado and play at No. 16 Denver on Sunday.