(Photo Courtesy of Stony Brook Athletics)
In 2010, Rick Sowell led the Stony Brook Seawolves to their best season in program history, as they won the America East and made their first and only NCAA Quarterfinal appearance, where they fell to Virginia just one goal. Since that historic season, the Seawolves have only won the America East tournament and made it to the NCAA Tournament just once. That was in 2012.
While they have failed to get back to that elite level that we saw from them in the early 2010s, Stony Brook has been no slouch. The Seawolves have won the America East regular-season championship in very recent history, doing so in 2018 and 2019. However, they experienced upset losses to Vermont and UMBC in the conference semifinals in those years. In fact, they have lost in the America East semifinals every year since their last NCAA Tournament trip in 2012.
Anthony Gilarid’s arrival in Stony Brook during the summer of 2019 marked a new era of Stony Brook lacrosse. And for the Seawolf faithful, they hope this new era sees Stony Brook lacrosse not only remain a contender in the America East but taken back to the level the program was at in the early 2010s before UAlbany surpassed them as the clear-cut top dog in the conference and amongst mid-major teams overall. And in just the first year, albeit a partial season, Gilardi and his staff put in the foundation for this program to eventually fully blossom as we have seen them in the past.
While the first year of the Gilardi era was cut short due to the Coronavirus outbreak, they were able to show some growth and put together a 5-2 record. Their two losses came against Fairfield, 16-11, in the second game of the season, and Bryant, 15-11, in the final game of the season.
In many respects, the 2021 season will essentially be a second first year for this staff. Not only will it be their first full season at Stony Brook, but the Seawolves will return eight players fifth season following the NCAA’s ruling that granted an extra year of eligibility to spring sport athletes.
Among those eight fifth-year returnees, include attackmen Tom Haun and Cory VanGihoven, midfielders Chris Pickle, Jr., Connor Gripe, Harrison Matsuoka, Tom Dugan, goalie Michael Bollinger, and defensemen CJ Trenkle.
Haun and VanGihoven are the two most impactful returnees on the offensive end, as the pair were first and second in points on the team last season. Haun put up 21 points (15G/6A), and VanGihoven recorded 20 points (15G/5A). Additionally, Pickle was the Seawolves’ sixth-leading point-getter last season with 10 points (7G/3A), while Gripe (6G/1A) and Matsuoka (2G/1A), who can play both ways, are each top 15 scorers.
In addition to some of the impact fifth-year guys they return on the offensive end, Stony Brook will also return top-five scorers at the midfield with junior Caleb Pearson (15G/3A), senior Mike McCannell (7G/10A), and Wayne White (7G/6A), who came back strong last season after suffering a season-ending injury early in 2019. Junior attackman/midfielder Matt Anderson (6G/1A) should also be another solid asset to this offense again in 2021.
This Stony Brook offense, which ranked 26th in scoring offense (13.14 goals per game) last season, should have the luxury of being able to grab multiple extra possessions like they did last season. Junior Renz Conlon, who transferred in from DII Franklin Pierce last season, went 87-for-162 (53%) at the faceoff dot last season and ranked fourth in the America East in faceoff win percentage. Conlon should only improve as a junior in his second season at the DI level.
Defensively, Bollinger (52% save percentage) and Trenkle (6GB/5CT) are two of the biggest impact and most experienced returnees for a unit that ranked in the bottom half of DI in scoring defense, allowing 13 goals per game.
Outside of those two fifth-year guys, Stony Brook will see two of their other starting three close defenders in Michael Sabella (14GB/8CT) and senior Danny Cassidy (12GB/3CT). Additionally, sophomore LSM Christian Lowd (13GB/7CT) will be back and also looking to take another step forward along with the rest of this defense.
With the solid mix of veteran experience and youth that they have on both ends, the Seawolves could very well challenge for the America East title and get past that semifinal roadblock that has held them back for the past seven full seasons. And whether they can get there or not will likely be proven on the defensive end, where they most need to improve.