Stony Brook senior attack Kevin Crowley.

Stony Brook senior attack Kevin Crowley. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Stony Brook University's offense will be prominent and dominant this year, but it won't be a sneak attack. Not when SBU's two highest scorers and coach are featured on the cover of Lacrosse Magazine. This is heady stuff, usually reserved for the Syracuses, Dukes and North Carolinas of the sport.

But the Seawolves' run to the NCAA quarterfinals last spring was no fluke, as their preseason ranking (No. 4 in Lacrosse Magazine; No. 8 in Inside Lacrosse) indicates.

However, even with midfielder Kevin Crowley, a leading candidate for the Tewaaraton Award - he was second in the voting as a junior last year - and attack Jordan McBride returning, coach Rick Sowell's team faces heavy challenges from those more familiar lacrosse powers in its quest to reach the Final Four for the first time in school history.

Syracuse is the consensus No. 1 team in every major preseason poll. The traditionally high-scoring Orange is led by three first-team All-Americans on defense. Long-stick middie Joel White, defenseman John Lade and goalie John Galloway make Syracuse the popular choice to win its third NCAA crown in four years. And there is plenty of firepower on offense, led by Stephen Keogh, Josh Amidon and Jeremy Thompson.

Syracuse is one of the few Final Four contenders in 2011 that does not have a distinct Long Island imprint. No. 2 Virginia has its own set of magazine cover boys, as Inside Lacrosse's preseason issue featured the Bratton brothers of Huntington, midfielders Shamel and Rhamel. Shamel is a two-time first-team All-American and serious candidate for the Tewaaraton, lacrosse's version of the Heisman .

The Cavaliers also return exceptional attackmen Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet. The starting goalie is Adam Ghitelman of Cold Spring Harbor.

No. 3 North Carolina is led by attack Billy Bitter of Manhasset, who earned first-team All-American honors in 2010 despite fighting a sports hernia all season. At 6-6, 235, Ryan Flanagan of West Islip is one of the best and most physical defensemen in the country.

Freshman attack Nicky Galasso of West Islip, the all-time leading scorer in Long Island scholastic history and the nation's top-rated recruit, scored four goals in his collegiate debut a week ago.

Defending national champion Duke returns Zach Howell of Huntington, a 51-goal scorer, and hard-shooting midfielder Justin Turri of West Islip. The Blue Devils' strength, however, is its defense, led by C.J. Costabile, who scored the title-winning goal on the first faceoff in overtime to beat Notre Dame last Memorial Day in Baltimore.

Some other legit title contenders with at least one Long Island star: Maryland (attack Ryan Young, Manhasset); Notre Dame (midfielder Zach Brenneman, East Hampton); Cornell (first-team All-American attack Rob Pannell, Smithtown West, another Tewaaraton candidate, who had 51 assists last season); Princeton (freshman middie Tom Schreiber, St. Anthony's) and Hofstra (middie Kevin Ford, Floral Park, and attack Stephen Bentz, Massapequa).

The Pride, a perennial NCAA Tournament team, joins Stony Brook in the preseason Top 10, and like the Seawolves, showcases star players from Canada. Jay Card, one of the hardest shooters in the country, and Jamie Lincoln form a dangerous righty-lefty combo on attack.

Hofstra and Stony Brook do not play in the regular season, but an NCAA Tournament showdown would be big news around here.

Maybe even cover-worthy.

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