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Stony Brook Faces Challenge of a Young Team

Last season's unprecedented success brought a lot to the

Stony Brook University men's lacrosse program. Chief among the accomplishments

were an America East title, an NCAA Tournament appearance, and exposure on a

national stage. But it also brought expectations, which will not be easily

lived up to.

Stony Brook lost 13 players from its championship squad to graduation,

including five of the top six scorers. Steve Conlon, who scored 22 goals with

20 assists as a freshman last year, transferred to Delaware. There are 18

freshmen on the Stony Brook roster with only five juniors and four seniors.

Junior George LaFlare is the leading returning scorer, with 10 goals and nine

assists last season.

"With a combination of youth and a very tough early schedule, there could

potentially be trouble in the beginning," Stony Brook coach John Espey said.

"But if they are mentally tough, they could be a whole new team in April."

While Stony Brook may have trouble scoring goals, it should be solid in

other areas. Senior Dennis Nafte is one of the country's top faceoff men. Last

season he won 115 of his 181 draws for a .635 winning percentage. That was the

best in the conference and fifth-best in the nation.

And Stony Brook's defense is strong with junior Eric Hatkewitz and

sophomore Kyle Pearl, a pair of physical long-sticks. Hatkewitz, a first-team

All-America East player, has a nose for the ball and scooped 73 ground balls

last season. Pearl had 53 ground balls and also managed to put up four goals

and two assists (which puts him among the returning scoring leaders). Junior

Aaron Weiss is a brawny defensive midfielder and Brian Alfano can play both

short-stick defensive midfield and close defense. With the lack of a scoring

threat and two freshmen, Jeff Slater and Errol Wilson, vying for the starting

goalie position, the defense had better be near bulletproof.

"I think we are ready for [the challenge]," Hatkewitz said. "Last year's

team was smart, but this year's team is bigger and stronger. It'll be a

learning experience in the beginning, but as the season progresses we'll be

much better."

Stony Brook will play all seven of its home games at LaValle Stadium. The

gem of a facility has helped the Seawolves with recruiting and image, but Espey

said it has a drawback this season. Snow removal from the field has been slow

- the coach said not all of the necessary equipment was on campus - and has

crimped into practice time. Espey said it's a small hurdle that should only

last this one season. An ambitious schedule that includes visits from Maryland

and North Carolina opens at Massachusetts on Saturday with the home opener a

week later against UMBC.

Eventually one or two of the newcomers will step forward as a scorer for

Stony Brook. It could be Jason Cappadoro from MacArthur, a freshman attackman

Espey said has the mindset and composure of an upperclassman.

Or Adam Marksberry, a freshman from Comsewogue who has impressed the

coaching staff. Mike Kirschner is a sophomore midfielder who started at the end

of last season and returns with some added strength and experience.

"They all have the talent, they just haven't been put in a role like this

yet," Espey said of his young crop. "This is just another cycle. When these

guys get to be seniors, I think we'll have reached a pinnacle."

Saturday

Stony Brook

At UMass

1 p.m.

Radio: WUSB (90.1)

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