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Beware the underdog Darkwolves -- the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team

The Stony Brook women are getting all the attention being ranked No. 2, and the men don’t seem to mind one bit, playing without any pressure.

Stony Brook's Ryland Rees brings the ball up

Stony Brook's Ryland Rees brings the ball up field while being chased by Binghamton's Griffin Konen on April 28, 2017, at LaValle Stadium. Photo Credit: Bob Sorensen

When the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team opened its season Saturday against Sacred Heart, it was flying under the radar.

The Stony Brook women’s team, ranked No. 2 in the nation, is all the rage on campus, leaving its male counterpart somewhat in the dark. But the guys don’t mind. In fact, the Seawolves have nicknamed themselves the Darkwolves.

“I think it’s a good place to be, honestly, being a dark wolf, because there’s no pressure on us,” senior long-stick midfielder Kyle Abdellatif said. “We can just go out there and play and know we can beat anyone any given day. We know we’re good, we know we have a lot of talent, so we just have to believe in ourselves, and I think that belief is starting to come around.”

Stony Brook dropped its opener to Sacred Heart, 11-9, after the defense allowed the Pioners to jump out to an 11-4 lead in the third quarter.

But much of Stony Brook’s optimism comes from the defensive side, which returns its entire unit, including Abdellatif and Ryland Rees, a first-team America East long-stick midfielder selection. Rees said he believes the team can build around its experienced defense.

“It lets our coaches and everyone focus a little more on the offense,” Rees said, “whereas we can take a little leadership on the defense, and I think that’s something we can base our whole team off.”

Although the Seawolves graduated their top two scorers in Ryan Bitzer and Alex Corpolongo, they return their next three scorers in Tom Haun (23 goals, 14 assists), Cory VanGinhoven (22 goals, three assists) and Wayne White (13 goals, eight assists). Each enters his sophomore season.

“We are young on offense, but that doesn’t change how we play,” said Haun, a Sachem North graduate. “We’re still going to play within the system and everyone’s going to get their opportunities to contribute.”

Stony Brook finished 7-7 last season, including 3-3 in conference play, falling to top-seeded Albany, 19-6, in the America East semifinals. Albany enters this season as the preseason favorite in the coaches’ poll to win the conference title and is ranked No. 3 in the country by Inside Lacrosse.

Stony Brook was selected second in its conference in the coaches’ poll and was ranked No. 34 by Inside Lacrosse in December, leading to the “Darkwolves” movement.

“Within our conference and all the pep talk about Albany, I think it’s kind of like an underdog story,” Rees said. “We aren’t as much as on the map and on the radar as Albany, but I don’t think you can take any teams lightly and I think teams have to be ready and be ready for us.”

Jim Nagle, entering his seventh season as coach, challenged his team with a difficult non-conference schedule, including games at No. 12 Penn State on Friday, No. 15 Virginia and No. 19 Princeton, along with home matchups with No. 18 Brown and Hofstra.

“Being the underdog, being young with a lot to prove,’’ Nagle said, “hopefully that gets us motivated to go about our business each day with a focus on proving something.”

THE SCHEDULE

All times p.m.

Feb. 10 Sacred Heart 1

Feb. 17 at Penn State 2

Feb. 24 Brown 1

Feb. 27 Hofstra 7

Mar 3 at Fairfield 1

Mar 10 Virginia 1

Mar 18 at UMBC noon

Mar 24 Hartford 1

Mar 31 at Albany `4

Apr 3 St John’s 7:30

Apr 7 at Princeton 1

Apr 14 Vermont 2

Apr 20 UMass Lowell 7

Apr 27 at Binghamton 7

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