It was the latest in a series of almosts, and no less painful than the others. The eighth-seeded Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team fell to top-seeded North Carolina, 14-11, in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
It was Stony Brook’s third quarterfinal loss in the last four tournaments.
"We did not come here to play close," Stony Brook coach Joe Spallina said. "We did not come here for respect. We came here to win, and we didn’t. So it’s a major disappointment."
Stony Brook fought back from a two-goal deficit in the second half and led by two with 8:41 left, but North Carolina scored the final five goals of the game to advance to the Final Four, where it will face Boston College on Friday in Towson, Maryland.
"I don’t lose a lot," Spallina said. "I don’t really take well to losing. So it hurts. It stings. It’s not even about losing. It’s about being able to coach my kids tomorrow. These are families and kids that give you life and give you heart for five years. I’m sad that that part is over."
Taryn Ohlmiller led Stony Brook (16-3) with three goals and two assists. Bridget Considine added two goals and one assist and Ellie Masera and Ally Kennedy also scored twice.
Centereach’s Jamie Ortega, an attacker on North Carolina (20-0), led all scorers with four goals and three assists. Mattituck’s Katie Hoeg had a goal and five assists and Tayler Warehime scored three goals for the Tar Heels.
"I have a ton of respect for Ortega, but I think Hoeg is a juggernaut," Spallina said. "I think she’s such a talented feeder that it allows Ortega to play off ball and play more to her skill set."
After falling behind 8-6 with 21:44 left in the game, the Seawolves scored four straight goals to take a 10-8 lead with 11:18 left. Ortega, off an assist from Hoeg, scored with 9:39 left to cut Stony Brook’s lead to one goal, but Ohlmiller answered and the upset-minded Seawolves led 11-9 with 8:41 remaining.
"That was all predicated on the way we moved the ball," Spallina said. "Athletically, they were probably a little bit higher level than us. When we played second-half offense, we wanted to make them have to defend us as a team, with ball movement and off ball picks and things along those lines. Our players did a really good job with that."
Ultimately, it was not to be. After Ortega assisted on Scottie Rose Growney’s goal with 7:34 left, the Long Island product tied the score at 11 with 6:19 left. Goals by Warehime and Ally Mastroianni, and another one by Hoeg on a free position shot, pushed the North Carolina lead to 14-11 and ended Stony Brook’s season.
"At the end of the day, they just made more plays," Spallina said. "They got a couple of key draw controls and then we turned the ball over in a couple key spots that may have been pivotal. There wasn’t one specific thing. I think they’re 20-0 for a reason. They’re an outstanding team. Our kids fought their tails off."