Tuesdays with Corey: Stony Brook Legit?
AFTER THE SURGE
Ohio State stumbled after its banner 2008 season and the departure of head coach Joe Breschi to North Carolina. Circumstances are different this year for preseason No. 4-ranked Stony Brook, but will the results follow?
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
Why not Stony Brook, eh?
That's a play off the Coca-Cola red cover of February's Lacrosse Magazine, which features a pair of Canadian imports — Kevin Crowley and Jordan McBride — flanking a smiling Stony Brook coach Rick Sowell on the eve of the spring lacrosse season.
For our 2011 college preview issue, we pontificated on the Seawolves' postseason possibilities. We ranked them No. 4 preseason, and asked "Why not us, eh?" Why can't they reach the final four? (Also, while we are at it: What is a Seawolf?) We weren't alone. The coaches ranked Stony Brook sixth and the media put them eighth this preseason.
There are cases to be made for and against that Stony Brook — the state university from the north shore of Long Island — can follow up its breakout 2010 season, 13-4 finish and NCAA quarterfinal run with a perhaps deeper postseason run in 2011.
Personnel-wise, the entire Stony Brook offense from a year ago returns. It will be the third straight season this group of players is together. You know the names and bios: Crowley (LM's preseason player of the year and No. 1 overall pick in MLL draft), McBride (the school's all-time leading scorer), Tom Compitello (honorable mention All-American attackman), Kyle Belton (23g, 5a on attack in 2010), Rob Campbell (20g, 17a at midfield) and Timmy Trinkle (10g, 10a). There's added depth, too, among a class of 15 freshmen or transfers.
Faceoff specialist Adam Rand, who ranked third nationally in win percentage (61.6), is also back for a senior season.
The question marks are on defense and in goal. The team graduated long stick midfielder Steven Waldeck, the "heart and soul" of the 2010 team, Sowell said. Waldeck was also the leader in ground balls and a key wingman on faceoffs. Charlie Paar, the starting goalie the last two seasons who played well in big games, is gone, along with two starting close defenseman.
Taking a look at the schedule, Stony Brook is still in the America East, which still gives out an automatic NCAA tournament berth to the conference tournament champion. The question is whether Stony Brook's schedule is strong enough to give the Seawolves' room for error should they somehow slip up in the America East tournament. (Hey, anything can happen.) Last year, they beat only two ranked teams: Delaware during the regular season and Denver at home in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
This year, Stony Brook has home dates with Virginia, Delaware, Cornell and Bryant and a road game at Towson. After that, it's a pretty steep dropoff in terms of strength of schedule. But a win against Virginia to open the season Feb. 26 would go a long way to setting Stony Brook up well for the postseason, as well as a spring of nowhere to go but down.
Which brings us to the larger question swirling around Stony Brook this season: Is this team, or this program, ready to handle being a target instead of hanging around as the small wolf?
It wasn't long ago — in fact, until last year's first-round weekend of the NCAA tournament — that Stony Brook wasn't considered the top-ranked team on Long Island. Hofstra was and maybe still is. But the Pride was knocked out by Maryland in the first round of the 2010 tournament and Stony Brook advanced to the quarterfinals, drew more than 10,000 fans to LaValle Stadium and played an emotional Virginia team within a goal most of the game.
There haven't been any real games played on either side since then, only prognostication and speculation from outsiders like ourselves.
Sowell said his team came back in the fall (before preseason rankings were published) well-conditioned and with the correct attitude, not one of complacency. The leadership from the offense — Crowley, McBride and Compitello are the three captains — will also have to carry the team as the newbies on defense gel.
Kyle Moeller, a transfer from Manhattan, is a takeaway threat at close defense, and junior Savaughn Greene elevates from reserve at close defense, too, joining the lone returning starter, Bryan Reinert. Greg Miceli and J.J. Laforet look to be replacements for Waldeck at long stick middie. Laforet was a short stick middie last year, but has an LSM pedigree, having played for Brodie Merrill at the Hill School.
Fifth-year senior Rob Camposa is in goal. He's a new starter, but not completely inexperienced. He was Paar's backup, but had been part of big games for the Stony Brook program. In 2009, he started the final three games of the season when Paar went down with an ankle injury. In an America East semifinal game win over Albany, Camposa made 15 saves. He had 16 saves in a loss to UMBC that year in the America East championship game.
If he's in goal in the America East championship game again, it will mean Stony Brook will have had the chance to live up to its growing expectations and make a run in the big tournament. This is likely from this point of view. But with new expectations come added pressures and attention, factors Stony Brook hasn't yet had to handle on a national stage.
"We put ourselves on the map, and that was a goal of ours, but now the shoe is on the other foot because of everything that's happened," Sowell told me this fall. "Once at the beginning of the fall we said, 'Hey fellas, this is what we signed up for. Now we have to deal with it.'"
This week's High Five takes a look at the last five "Stony Brooks" — Division I men's lacrosse teams that started at or outside LM's preseason top 14 and had strong, surprising seasons to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
How did they do the next year, after that breakout season? None made the final four. Three missed the tournament, and the other two lost in the first round. History doesn't exactly support the Stony Brook-to-the-final-four argument, but each case is different.
1. 2008 UMBC
What happened: The Retrievers started the season unranked outside the top 20, finished 12-4, but unseeded for the NCAA tournament. They lost in the first round to No. 2 Virginia, 10-9.
The next year: Went 12-4, lost to No. 6 North Carolina, 15-13, in first round of tournament.
Similarities/differences to Stony Brook: Locked up their coach, Don Zimmerman, with a contract extension after the breakout season, like Sowell who signed a deal through 2015 after last season. UMBC returned entire starting defense the next year; Stony Brook returns its offense.
2. 2008 OHIO STATE
What happened: Started preseason ranked No. 18, finished 11-6 and unseeded in the tournament. Beat No. 8 Cornell, 15-7, in the first round and lost to Duke, 21-10, in the quarterfinals.
The next year: Finished 8-8, missed tournament.
Similarities/differences to Stony Brook: Joe Breschi left to take the North Carolina job after the 2008 season and Nick Myers took over. Kevin Buchanan, the Buckeyes' top player, did not return in 2009, like Crowley does for the Seawolves this season.
3. 2007 ALBANY
What happened: The Danes were preseason No. 19, went 15-3 and were seeded fifth in the tournament. They lost to Cornell, 12-11, in overtime in the NCAA quarterfinals.
The next year: Went 8-8, missed tournament.
Similarities/differences to Stony Brook: Albany graduated big scorers, Frank Resetarits and Merrick Thomson (113 goals combined in 2007), but returned an All-American at each position: Goalie Brett Queener, defenseman Craig McDonald, midfielder Jordan Levine and attackman Corey Small.
(Related: New Weapons Give Albany Lacrosse a Sure Shot)
4. 2006 HOFSTRA
What happened: Started as preseason No. 16, finished 17-2 and was the No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Pride lost to eventual national runner-up UMass, 11-10, in overtime in the quarterfinals.
The next year: Finished 6-8, missed tournament.
Similarities/differences to Stony Brook: 2006 ended up being John Danowski's last year as Hofstra coach, as he headed to Durham, N.C., to become Duke head man in the wake of the alleged rape scandal. The Pride started anew with first-year coach Seth Tierney in 2007.
5. 2006 PRINCETON
What happened: Princeton was not a traditional outsider by any means, but the Tigers were preseason No. 14, finished 11-5 and were the No. 7 seed for the NCAA tournament. They lost to Maryland, 11-6, in the quarterfinals.
The next year: Went 10-4, lost in first round of NCAA tournament to No. 6 Georgetown, 9-8, in OT.
Similarities/differences to Stony Brook: This is probably the most similar case to Stony Brook personnel wise. Princeton returned its top eight scorers from 2006 for the '07 campaign. But they also had a returning first-team All-American goalie, Alex Hewit. The Tigers also played six freshmen on a regular basis in 2006, something Stony Brook didn't do.
Judging by the history it doesn't look likely that Stony Brook will make a final four run, but that's why they play the games.
FRESHMAN DEBUT OF THE WEEK
Freshman Nick Galasso scored four goals in North Carolina's win over Robert Morris -- all of them at important times.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
A new season is underway and that means rookie debuts. One not to forget is Nick Galasso's first game with North Carolina on Saturday.
Even though I've seen Galasso play regularly over the last two years and have seen him play nothing other than extremely well, I still was surprised he scored four goals — all at important times — and had an assist in the Tar Heels' 14-11 win over Robert Morris. I guess I shouldn't be shocked, and that's my mistake. The freshman attackman scored the game's first goal and three in the first half. Then he put the Tar Heels up 13-11, with 2:45 left in the fourth quarter off a pass from fellow West Islip (N.Y.) product, defenseman Ryan Flanagan.
"I thought I came out and played pretty well," Galasso told reporters after the game. "For the first game, it felt good out there. ... Coming from high school and playing at a high level is a great feeling and I hope we can keep moving from here and getting better and better."
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"If the results are going to be the same, I just won't show up." – Denver coach Bill Tierney on bringing the Pioneers' back to the Carrier Dome Saturday for their season opener against the Orange. Denver opened last season at Syracuse, losing 15-9, and Tierney was asked if he planned to prepare the Pioneers any differently for the Dome environment leading up to Saturday.
UN-RETIREMENT OF THE WEEK
Former Shoreham-Wading River (N.Y.) girls lacrosse coach Bob Vlahakis retired from coaching in June of 2010 after leading his team to a fourth straight state Class C championship. On Monday, he was announced as the first head women's coach of St. Joseph's College on Long Island, which plans to begin an NCAA Division III schedule in the spring of 2012. Vlahakis took over the SWR girls' team in 2004 and had no lacrosse coaching experience at the time, but brought coaching knowledge from boys' and girls' soccer. He also taught at SWR middle school for 30 years and retired from that job in 2005. He still is. No Brett Favre news to report there.
OFFICIAL SIGN OF FEBRUARY LACROSSE
Parting thought, a Division I men's lacrosse score from Thursday: Ohio State 4, Detroit Mercy 3.