It couldn’t have started worse. It couldn’t have ended better.
The Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team opened a postseason where it hopes to go where the program has never been — to the Final Four — by giving up the first four goals in its America East Tournament semifinal against UMBC.
Then the seven-time defending champion Seawolves rebounded from their worst start this season by scoring seven of the next eight goals before rolling to a 25-13 victory on Thursday behind a seven-goal performance by midfielder Ally Kennedy at LaValle Stadium.
The 25 goals is a program record for conference tournament play and Kennedy’s seven tallies not only tied the conference tournament record but gives her 252 for her career, pulling her even with program icon Kylie Ohlmiller for second all-time.
Top-seeded Stony Brook (13-2) will host second-seeded Albany in the final on Saturday at 1 p.m. Albany beat No. 3 Vermont 17-8 in the other semifinal.
"It may not be a perfect script, digging that early hole for ourselves," Seawolves coach Joe Spallina said. "Down 4-0 is never ideal, but . . . we showed composure in a playoff game. To be down 4-0 and all the momentum’s on the other side and for our players to take a deep breath and respond with the run we did? It talks about our character."
"We definitely got punched in the mouth," midfielder Rayna Sabella said. "But eventually we knew it was time to retaliate so we took it and turned it into something positive."
Attacker Taryn Ohlmiller scored on a twirling drive to tie the score and Kennedy collected the ensuing draw control and went straight for the net to score her second goal and make it 6-5. Stony Brook never trailed after that.
"The plan was sticking to us and our style of lacrosse," Kennedy said. "Facing adversity and then coming back and grinding out our best punch on them and ending up with 25 goals on the scoreboard . . . is a great team effort."
Taryn Ohlmiller scored five goals, midfielder Sarah Pulis had four and Kailyn Hart had three for Stony Brook. The Seawolves scored on five of their first six second-half possessions — including two goals by Taryn Ohlmiller and one by Pulis — to go up 17-8.
Another key to turning the tide was slowing Claire Bockstie of the Retrievers (6-6). She scored four goals in the first half, but was limited to just two after the break as Spallina had her double-teamed by combinations of Nicole Rizzo, Siobahn Rafferty, Kaeli Huff and Sydney Gagnon.
Spallina said he believes staging a comeback to win is a better start than coasting to a victory for a team with high aspirations because "you don’t get the same juice out of that win."
Certainly, the players were feeling the juice.
"If we play the lacrosse we know we can play, the sky is the limit. We know we can make it to the Final Four," Pulis said. "The America East [title] is a cool thing but we know its what we’re expected to do. We want more. . . to win the championship."