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Joe Spallina makes strong point, and Seawolves listen in 16-5 semifinal victory

Stony Brook's Courtney Murphy celebrates after scoring a

Stony Brook's Courtney Murphy celebrates after scoring a goal against UMBC during the America East semifinals at LaValle Stadium on May 1, 2015. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

Joe Spallina's relentlessness is what makes him a successful coach. Pedal to the metal and all that. So it was no surprise that he was angered by the route his Stony Brook women's lacrosse team took Friday before beating visiting UMBC, 16-5, in an America East Championship semifinal.

Stony Brook (17-1) will host Albany (14-3) at noon Sunday. The Seawolves likely are NCAA Tournament-bound regardless of the outcome.

Quick recap before Spallina's rant: The Seawolves led UMBC 4-3 at the half before Courtney Murphy, who set a tournament record with seven goals, and her teammates took over in a 12-2 second half.

Dorrien Van Dyke finished with three goals, Kylie Ohlmiller scored twice and had four assists, and Michelle Rubino had two goals. Amber Kupres and Taylor Ranftle had three assists each.

"I was angry, very angry,'' Spallina said. "Not disappointed, I was angry. We had a great week of practice, a great week of prep. We came out flat. It's unacceptable this time of the year.''

Spallina spoke to his team and halftime and afterward. "I just got done telling them this time of the year, you don't win playoff games playing 30 minutes,'' he said. "You'd be lucky to win playoff games playing 50. So I thought we were fortunate today. It is not acceptable. That's not who we are. This is Stony Brook 2015. We showed a vintage version and that won't happen again.''

At halftime, Spallina delivered this message: "I said do you want to see Albany dance around on your field on Sunday afternoon because I will make you come to this game. You're a half away from mailing your season in.

"The good thing is, I felt like that first half was probably the worst first half we played all season of offense. I felt the second half was probably the best just from the standpoint of moving the ball, attack and space, doing some special things.

"I thought you saw the real us in the second half. When we're going, there's very few teams that match up with us when we're playing with the pace we were in the second half.''

Spallina's heated words were heeded. Murphy scored the first goal of the second half and added five more after that. She has 67 this season. "We just weren't playing our game, I think,'' Murphy said. "[UMBC] came out with a game plan and were executing it. We just kind of were falling back and letting them play.''

Rubino added, "I think we all started to look at each other when things start to get hectic but we try to keep our composure and keep all of our heads in the game.''

Murphy said Spallina "came in at halftime and just told us the finality of this game and I think that kind of woke us up a bit and we came out second half with guns blazing. I think offensive-wise we started to click. We were playing as one, not just middies and attack. We're going to make sure we're ready for Sunday so something like this doesn't happen again.''

Stony Brook hasn't had that many close games this season and there could have been a tendency to look past UMBC (8-9), a 13-7 loser to the Seawolves last month.

"It's definitely possible for us to overlook people,'' Ohlmiller said. "I know that's what one of Coach's points was at halftime: We can't overlook this team. It could be the end of our season. I guess we can't overlook any team, no matter what their ranking, no matter if they're even nationally ranked.''

During the regular season, Stony Brook earned a 7-5 victory over Albany, which reached Sunday's final with a 14-13 overtime win over Vermont.

A victory Sunday would secure an NCAA Tournament first-round game at home. "We know if we don't win, we're still going to get a seed,'' Ohlmiller said, "but we built ourselves up to where we are now in the rankings and we don't want to lose that over one game. Yes, the America East championship is very important but so is where we're going to go after that.''

Spallina said, "Now we're one game away from getting the [automatic qualifier], our RPI is very high and gaining one of the top five seeds. But I think there's a chance for us being ever higher. We have all the bells and whistles. Now it's a matter of us getting right and doing what's necessary.''

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