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
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
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."
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