Stony Brook women's lacrosse team shoots for NCAA Tournament
Stony Brook women's lacrosse coach Joe Spallina wants to get rid of the trophy that has been on his desk for nearly a year. Finishing second in the America East Tournament didn't cut for him last season, so the trophy sits there as a reminder.
After beating Binghamton, 17-6, on Saturday to earn the regular-season title, Spallina is two victories away from getting some new hardware when Stony Brook (14-2) hosts the four-team tournament starting Friday. No. 10 Stony Brook meets Vermont at 4:30 p.m. and New Hampshire plays Albany at 7 p.m.
"I've had that thing in the middle of my desk since the end of [last] season," Spallina said of the trophy. "It's big, annoying, gets in my way, but it's there on purpose."
It's a reminder not to let it happen again. "We're definitely not taking it for granted,'' Spallina said. "We told our kids: From this point on, you win, you earn another game."
Senior Demmianne Cook, one of several transfers from Adelphi who came over with Spallina two years ago to transform what had been a last-place program at Stony Brook, put the game away early by scoring four of her seven goals in the first 11 minutes. Michelle Rubino had three goals and Amber Kupres, Kaitlyn Harrison and Janine Hillier had two apiece. Claire Petersen sat out her third straight game with a lower body injury but is expected back for the tournament.
Cook leads Division I with 76 goals and is one of 25 women nominated for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the nation's top player. "It's just a privilege being over here," she said. "Give credit to coach Spallina and everyone from Adelphi. We're just trying to chase a national championship and we're doing every little bit that we can to get there. We hope to win the America East and then we want to make it to the Final Four."
The conference winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which would be a first for the women's program. "We have the mind-set that we're going to win; there's no doubts in our minds," said senior defender Melissa Rotante, who remembers the difficult years. "Before, it was a different mind-set . . . It's much harder to beat a team that believes that it's going to win every time they come out. It all stems from the top and trickles down. [Spallina] told us how it was going to be. First day, first practice, he said, 'Buy into my system and we'll win.' We all bought in."
Stony Brook made it to the title game last season but lost to Albany. "This is a totally different year," Rotante said. "We're all dialed in. We know this is our year in the America East."