Stony Brook women’s lacrosse coach Joe Spallina can go on and on about his top players, namely juniors Ally Kennedy and Taryn Ohlmiller. But he has a certain affinity for seniors and what they bring to the table, and fifth-year senior transfer Nicole Barretta proved her worth on Friday.
Barretta, who came to Stony Brook this season after four years at Temple, scored the game-winner in overtime as the Seawolves defeated defending national champion James Madison in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Next up is a date with No. 1 overall seed Maryland on Sunday at noon in College Park.
“Having seniors this time of the year is everything because they know this is it,” Spallina said. “Having some extra seniors come in as fifth-year kids was extremely beneficial. We have a really young core on this team.”
Barretta and Sabrina Tabasso joined as graduate transfers, while Sara Moeller played three seasons at America East rival UMBC before leaving the Retrievers. Tabasso and Moeller each scored against JMU and will be vital pieces against Maryland’s goalkeeper, Tewaaraton Award finalist Megan Taylor.
Spallina said his offense needs to keep its shots near the middle, relying on ball movement to get Taylor moving in the cage. Taylor excels on saving shots from the alleys and has stifled offenses all season.
Peppering Taylor with shots is predicated on Keri McCarthy’s ability to assert herself in the draw circle. She struggled against JMU, which won 15 of 21 draws, but Spallina thinks she has a better matchup against Maryland's Kali Hartshorn.
Stony Brook has won 12 straight games and can overcome a draw disadvantage as it did against JMU. As the tournament progresses, though, the Seawolves will go as far as McCarthy — another senior — takes them.
“I think it’s a better matchup for our [draw] unit,” Spallina said. “If we can be good there, I think we’re going to be in a very good situation to win the game.”
Kennedy, who plays a factor off the circle, imposed her will against JMU. The prolific midfielder had four goals, four ground balls and three draw controls in her first game since getting left off the list of five Tewaaraton finalists.
“She’s the best midfielder anywhere,” Spallina said of Kennedy, who has 99 points (84 goals) this spring. “She doesn’t get wrapped up in that. But I think it’s something where what she’s done for us, I don’t think there’s another midfielder anywhere who’s done as much for their team.”
She and Ohlmiller — along with sophomores Siobhan Rafferty, Rayna Sabella and those all-important seniors — need to play a near flawless game against the Terps to advance.
“We’re not intimidated by them, but I think some other teams are. We respect them immensely, but there’s no fear,” Spallina said. “What they’ve done is the gold standard in the sport.
“We’re playing pretty well right now. Why not us?”