There was no easing into the season against an overmatched opponent. Stony Brook had to open against the fourth-ranked team in the country.
It didn’t go well for the home men’s lacrosse team Saturday at LaValle Stadium. The Seawolves were voted second in America East by the conference coaches in their preseason poll after sharing the regular-season title last season. But they were out of their league against a big-time Big Ten team.
Penn State pummeled them, 17-4.
“We’re ran into a very good team today,” said Jim Nagle, who still feels his eighth Stony Brook edition is going to be better than his seventh, which went 5-1 in the conference and 7-8 overall.
“… I feel like we’re going to be a great team. I have a lot of faith and confidence in my guys. … We’re more experienced. We’re definitely very optimistic about the year despite the outcome of our first game.”
Two Long Island guys returned home and had much to do with the outcome for an experienced Penn State group that’s 3-0 after being voted third in the Big Ten by the conference coaches during the preseason.
Mac O’Keefe stood out on attack, scoring seven goals and assisting on another, all in the first half. The junior from Syosset has 14 goals already. He arrived pumped to play back on the Island.
“It was definitely special,” said O’Keefe, who scored a Nassau-leading 63 goals for Syosset High in 2015. “You try and take it as any other game, but there’s definitely a lot of emotion going into this one.”
Gerard Arceri could feel it, too. The junior from St. James was born in Stony Brook and starred at Smithtown East.
“It’s definitely exciting, just growing up here and having all the memories playing on this field back in high school,” Arceri said. “It was definitely a great experience. I knew a bunch of hometown friends were coming to the game. So I was happy we got to put a show on for them.”
Arceri put on his typical show when it came to faceoffs. He was a USILA third-team All-American last season for that reason. This time, he won 14 in 20 tries, including six in seven tries in the first quarter. Little wonder the Nittany Lions jumped out to a 6-0 lead.
O’Keefe turned Arceri’s opening faceoff win into a goal, beating Michael Bollinger. Just 45 seconds had elapsed.
Two minutes in, Jack Kelly scored on an assist from O’Keefe. Twenty-nine seconds later, O’Keefe whistled a straight-on shot past Bollinger from 13 yards away. TJ Malone, O’Keefe and Jack Kelly added goals before the quarter expired.
“Especially in the beginning, getting off to a hot start, I think [the faceoffs] really helped, getting my team possessions,” Arceri said.
Then O’Keefe poured it on in the second quarter, scoring four more. The Seawolves returned for the second half in a deep 11-0 hole.
“We came out with a little bit more energy,” sophomore midfielder Mike McCannell said. “We realized we had nothing to lose.”
McCannell found the net with 2:28 remaining in the third. The deficit was now 15-1. The Seawolves scored three in the fourth after Penn State goalie Colby Kneese was pulled for Trevor Scollins. But it was still a blowout.
“I wouldn’t say it dampers our confidence,” said Tom Haun, a junior from Ronkonkoma who contributed a goal. “It’s still early in the season. There’s a long road ahead of us. But we have to kind of step back and evaluate ourselves and regroup from this game because it wasn’t good at all.”