The final minutes got a little sweaty in the cool air Sunday at LaValle Stadium, but the ending to the story of the America East Tournament was the same as usual: Stony Brook’s players striking happy poses with the championship trophy.
For the sixth straight year, Stony Brook and Albany fought for the women’s lacrosse conference title. And for the fifth straight year, the Seawolves emerged with the top prize and an automatic pass into the NCAA Tournament.
Kylie Ohlmiller scored six goals and assisted on another, and top-seeded Stony Brook held off the second-seeded Great Danes, 14-12, to keep the streak going.
“It’s great because I know where this was when I walked in the door,” said coach Joe Spallina, who was hired in June of 2011. “We were the 70th-ranked team in the country. We kind of had to change the culture . . . What we’re doing isn’t ordinary, especially a mid-major.”
The fourth-ranked Seawolves, now 18-1 after winning 13 straight, bowed out in the second round of the NCAAs the last four years. But they were 4-1 against top 20 teams during this regular season.
“I think that our ultimate goal is the national championship,” said Ohlmiller, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. “ . . . I think that this is our year.”
Despite their record and overall ranking, SBU was given a No. 8 seed and did not get a bye. But the Seawolves did earn home-field advantage for the first two games. They will host Bryant on Friday and, with a victory, would play the Northwestern-Albany winner on Sunday. “Win one, earn one,” Spallina said.
But he was not pleased with the seed. “Whoever is on the NCAA selection committee should ‘take a lap,’ ” Spallina said. “We’re not an 8 seed and nothing can justify that. But if ever there was a year that seed doesn’t matter, this is it. We can beat anybody.”
Taryn Ohlmiller capped a 6-1 run by scoring her third with 12:53 left, making it 13-6.
But Kenzie Neal and Sarah Martin scored 16 seconds apart for Albany. Dorrien Van Dyke countered for Stony Brook from a sharp left angle. But Dakotah Savitcheff quickly countered for Albany. Then Neal scored her fifth to make it 14-10 with 2:52 left. Martin and Emma Powlin added goals to cut Albany’s deficit to 14-12 with 1:36 left. The Great Danes, 10-9 losers in last year’s final, had possession again until Carolyn Carrera caused a turnover with 54 seconds on the clock.
“Three goals separated the last two championships. I don’t have any words for it,” Albany coach John Battaglino said. “I wasn’t around, but I guess I feel like the old Brooklyn Dodgers [against the Yankees].”
It was 7-4 Seawolves at halftime after they had a 6-0 advantage 12:33 in. Kylie Ohlmiller scored the first three. The junior from Islip is up to 70 goals and 145 points — three behind the Division I single-season record.
“I think she’s the best women’s player in the world — period,” Spallina said. “From first grade to old ladies, she’s the best.”