The Stony Brook women expected to be playing a lot more lacrosse this season, but the sixth-seeded Seawolves saw their postseason journey come to a stunning end Sunday, when they were upset by visiting Princeton, 8-4, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at sun-splashed LaValle Stadium.
"It's disappointing," Courtney Murphy said of the loss. "This was supposed to be our year. We had so many significant wins this year. It was a monumental year."
Coming off their third consecutive America East title, Stony Brook (18-2) had set a goal of making it to the Final Four. But Princeton, which beat Fairfield Friday night in a play-in game at Stony Brook, grabbed an early 2-0 lead. Stony Brook scored the next three goals to go ahead 3-2, but Princeton (16-3) tied the score at 3 with 3:10 left in the first half on the first of four goals by Abby Finkelston.
Finkelston scored twice in the first 4:55 of the second half, and Stephanie Paloscio scored with 13:20 remaining to put Princeton up 6-3. Kristin Yevoli scored with 12:33 left to pull the Seawolves within 6-4, but Princeton was able to maintain possession and frustrate Stony Brook the rest of the way. The Tigers scored two empty-net goals in the final 30 seconds as they advanced to the quarterfinals against Duke.
"If we played Princeton 10 times, we'd probably beat 'em nine," Stony Brook coach Joe Spallina said. "But today was that one time, and we didn't do a good enough job."
In the immediate aftermath of the loss, Spallina wouldn't be consoled by the fact that the Seawolves had a great season overall, winning another league title and rising to a top-5 national ranking.
"I'm sure at some point, over the next week, that we'll be able to kind of reflect and feel good about [the overall season]," Spallina said. "But right now, I just feel straight pain."
Spallina said he will miss the graduating seniors, who were freshmen when he took over at Stony Brook in 2012. Midfielders Michelle Rubino and Amber Kupres led the group of six seniors with a combined 237 goals and 75 assists in their four years, but Spallina said the team will continue to get better even after their departure.
"Hey, listen. This is built to last," he said. "We'll be back here next year, and we're going to knock people around. We'll get stronger from this, but it doesn't change the fact that my seniors are gone and they were a big part of establishing the legacy that we're building here.
"It's not a one-year wonder. We've got a great class coming in here next year. We've got great returning players and our goals remain the same: We're going to win a national championship and it's going to happen soon. Unfortunately, we thought it would happen sooner -- we're going to have to wait another year."