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Stony Brook women’s lacrosse hosts Penn in NCAA opener

Unbeaten Stony Brook plays Penn at noon Sunday at LaValle Stadium. Penn beat Penn State in OT on Friday.

Stony Brook's Samantha DiSalvo and Courtney Murphy celebrate

Stony Brook's Samantha DiSalvo and Courtney Murphy celebrate after a goal in the American East championship game at LaValle Stadium in Stony Brook on Sunday. Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato

Stony Brook women’s lacrosse coach Joe Spallina said he’s done talking about the No. 5 seed his team received in the NCAA Division I Tournament.

“It’s not about being the No. 5 or the No. 1 or anything,” he said. “It’s about doing what we set out to do on Day 1. We just need to walk the walk.”

What the Seawolves set out to do on the season’s first night — a chilly evening in January when they took the field at midnight for a unique opening practice — was win a national championship.

Their first NCAA Tournament obstacle comes at noon Sunday against Penn at LaValle Stadium in the second round of the tournament. As a top-six seed, Stony Brook received a first-round bye. Penn defeated Penn State, 15-14, on Friday night at LaValle on Zoe Belodeau’s overtime winner with 1.8 seconds left. Spallina was there scouting.

Ranked No. 1 in the country across each of the three major polls for 11 straight weeks, Stony Brook is the only undefeated team in the nation at 19-0. But its membership in the America East reduced its RPI, which factored into the decision, selection committee member Janna Blais told NCAA.com.

Stony Brook posted the nation’s leading non-conference RPI after defeating eight ranked opponents. Because of the America East, Stony Brook’s overall RPI was No. 6.

“Nothing that committee has done the last couple years has surprised me,” Spallina said. “I’m just surprised that 19-0, they wouldn’t have given us one of the top four seeds, which would’ve given us home games throughout.”

The Seawolves will host Sunday’s game, but if No. 4 Boston College defeats Princeton on Sunday, Stony Brook will travel to Boston for the quarterfinals. That game would be either next Saturday or Sunday, with a berth in the final four at LaValle Stadium on the line.

Spallina said he’s not thinking ahead, though, even though a meeting with Boston College, which ranked No. 2 in national polls for much of the season, is highly anticipated.

“There’s so much about playing a faceless opponent,” he said. “We’re playing for our lives right now. I think the biggest thing for us is getting after [Penn], using our fresh legs and our energy and our veteran experience to play fast and smart.”

Penn lost the Ivy League championship to Princeton but still earned an at-large bid into the tournament thanks to a strong schedule. Penn’s four losses came against ranked teams (Maryland, Northwestern, Princeton twice).

Several Long Islanders play prominent roles for the Quakers, including defender Natalie Stefan (Manhasset), attack Emily Rogers-Healion (East Setauket) and midfielder Erin Barry (Manhasset).

They helped Penn enter the NCAA Tournament with an average of 14.18 goals per game, good for 23rd in the country. Stony Brook ranks second with 18.26 goals per game.

Penn’s average scoring margin is 3.65 goals per game, 22nd in the country. Stony Brook is far and away No. 1 in that category at 11.32, the only Division I team in double digits.

Behind the senior leadership of Kylie Ohlmiller, Courtney Murphy, Brooke Gubitosi and others, the Seawolves have a favorable matchup. Spallina said the week of practice has reflected how hungry his team is to play.

“Honestly, we’ve had our best week of practice all year,” he said. “I’m pumped about that. I think we’ve got the chance to get everybody on the same page again. Our energy has been off the charts.”

STONY BROOK, A No. 5 SEED?

Record: 19-0

National ranking: No. 1

RPI: No. 6

Non-conference RPI: No. 1

Record against ranked opponents: 8-0

Outscored ranked opponents: 128-64

Outscored conference opponents: 183-57

NCAA tournament seed: No. 5

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