It was a good day to be a member of the men's lacrosse team at Stony Brook University. The discomfort of losing a close game to No. 1 Virginia will prove relatively insignificant in the long run. Stony Brook captain Steven Waldeck guaranteed as much. He couldn't say the same for the winning team, which endures a pain not so easily removed by advancing to the NCAA Tournament's Final Four.
"You hear the stadium is sold out, you know the atmosphere is going to be unbelievable,'' the senior defenseman said after the Seawolves' 10-9 loss. "It's been an amazing ride. I couldn't picture it going any other way - other than 10-9 Stony Brook. I'll go and give my team a great big hug, tell them I love them.''
And move on with his life.
Waldeck envisioned what it must be like for Virginia; a former member of the men's lacrosse team has been charged with murdering a member of the women's lacrosse team.
"Off the field that's just something way bigger than the game of lacrosse,'' Waldeck said. "That is something that is going to stick with a lot of people. You win a national championship , it's something you never forget. You lose a friend at a young age and it's something you'll never forget. [For Virginia], it's just twice as bad. It was double jeopardy and it's going to hurt for a long time. Hurt that lacrosse team, that school, family, friends, everybody.''
The closest comparison Waldeck could make in his own life was the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, which became his inspiration for becoming a New York City fireman after graduation. "My best friend lost his father,'' he said. "That was a huge moment in my life, a major tragedy so close to home. I'll never let that go.''
Virginia's Rhamel Bratton of Huntington spoke quietly after the game, and it was clear that his team is still in mourning. "It's pretty much a roller coaster leading up to the game,'' he said. "As soon as halftime comes, guys are trying to find motivation and it definitely comes into play.''
A national championship for Virginia could come, so tragically apropos, on Memorial Day. "As far as closure goes, that would be placing too much on a championship,'' Bratton said. "That would be all about athletics. It definitely would pick up our spirits a little bit, but it's just a championship and the situation that's happened outside of lacrosse is always going to be there, regardless of winning a championship.''
What Stony Brook took from a season of plenty, even though it ended with a loss, will prove to be a long-term gain. "What we've done here at Stony Brook, to be on a national stage, I'm just so proud of my guys,'' Waldeck said. "I couldn't be happier with my decision to come to Stony Brook.''