No. 12/14 #Seawolves' expectations high heading into 2014 season

Spallina says junior captain Amber Kupres is poised for a big offensive year
 
Spallina says junior captain Amber Kupres is poised for a big offensive year
 
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Feb. 10, 2014

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Stony Brook, N.Y. -Coming off a banner 2013 season, the No. 12/14 Stony Brook women's lacrosse team welcomes back seven starters and adds 15 decorated newcomers as it looks to continue its ascent in the national rankings this year.

Stony Brook, ranked No. 1 in the America East preseason poll, returns 17 letterwinners from the record-breaking 2013 team that went undefeated in conference play, captured the team's first America East title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Seawolves cracked the top 10 in both major polls for the first time in program history and finished at No. 11 and No. 10 in the coaches and media polls, respectively, after winning a school-record 17 games.  

Goalkeeper

An ILWomen Preseason All-American, senior Frankie Caridi leads the netminder corps following a season that saw her boast the nation's best goals-against average (5.71) and save percentage (.530). The two-time first-team all-conference and 2013 All-Region honoree shattered the America East mark for goals-against average of 6.82, set by Albany's Anna Berman in 2011.  Caridi kept opponents to single-digits in goals in 17 of 20 games and let in a school-record two goals three times (Marist, 3/14, Fresno State, 3/26 and Albany, 3/30). 

Freshman Kaitlyn Leahy and sophomore Jenna Demarinis will serve as backups to Caridi this year. Leahy comes to Stony Brook from Bayport-Blue Point, where she was named All-Suffolk County and all-division three times. Demarinis saw action in one game last season.

Defenders

Defense is arguably the Seawolves' most experienced position entering the season, as they return two of their four starters from last year's team that broke a Division I mark for scoring defense (5.65). Sophomore Alyssa Fleming made 19 starts and picked up America East All-Rookie and second team all-conference accolades after a standout debut season. She finished second on the team with 17 caused turnovers and also scooped up 29 ground balls. Redshirt sophomore Maegan Meritz started all 20 games and used her speed to assist on the clear. The Farmingdale, N.Y., product finished with 18 ground balls.

Senior captain Jessica Romano served as an important reserve last season after picking up second team all-conference honors the previous year. A multi-dimensional player, Romano tallied five goals and one assist in addition to recording nine ground balls and six caused turnovers. Her physical, aggressive play and understanding of the defensive system will make her an important part of the unit. As a three-year captain, her leadership will be pivotal as the team looks to take its next step. 

Junior Jenna Agostino will look to work her way up the depth chart after working hard in the offseason. She saw action in 11 games and made two starts last season. Classmate and 2012 All-Rookie selection Marina Mestres will look to work her way into the lineup after playing in 13 contests in 2013.

Freshman Jessica Volpe will add depth to the strong unit. As a junior at Hauppauge, she was named to ESPN's Watch List and Top 50 Juniors ledger. She helped Hauppauge to a No. 6 state ranking in 2012. 

Midfielders

The Seawolves return three starting midfielders from last year's team in junior captains Michelle Rubino and Amber Kupres and senior Emily Mercier. Each finished in the top five in goal scoring for Stony Brook last season, with Rubino finding the back of the cage 34 times and Kupres and Mercier finishing with 31 goals and 28 goals, respectively.  Stony Brook also adds a highly touted transfer from Princeton in Jenna Davis, who will use her fifth and final year of eligibility after leading Princeton to the NCAA Tournament last season, to a unit that has been a centerpiece of Spallina's squads throughout his coaching career.

A highly athletic player with fantastic field vision, Rubino is the Seawolves' leading returner in draw controls (57) and points (46) after helping them break the program's single-season marks in both (412 points, 298 goals) last year. The two-time all-conference selection is already fourth in Stony Brook history with 151 career draw controls as she enters her third season as a starter.

Kupres, who Spallina has called an "unsung hero," tallied a game-high three goals in Stony Brook's NCAA Tournament win over Towson and also picked up America East All-Championship honors for her role in leading the team to its first championship. Another third-year starter, Kupres possesses a phenomenal amount of endurance and speed that allows her to make every midfield run of a game. She picked up 41 ground balls last season, which ranks ninth in Stony Brook single-season history, and finished third on the team with 24 draw controls. 

Mercier enters her final season in fantastic shape and is poised to assume a larger role. She has an ability to feed off the dodge and create offense due to her speed. Mercier netted a hat trick in the America East Championship game and scored a goal against Maryland in the NCAA Second Round.

Davis started 16 of 17 games for Princeton last season and has looked great in preseason. The former Division Avenue star, who poured in 352 goals, 157 assists and picked up All-America honors during her high school playing days, will add to a lineup of Seawolves with veteran, big-game experience.

Freshmen Kristin Yevoli and Dorrien Van Dyke figure to be a major part of the midfield line this season. Yevoli produced an All-American career at Massapequa High School, where she was also named All-Nassau County. Great on the draw, two-time Academic All-American and Northport High alumna Van Dyke uses her 6-0 frame to her advantage in 1o1 situations. 

Junior Kelly Kuerner returns after seeing action in 15 games and tallying four goals and 11 ground balls last season. 

Attack

Senior Alyssa Cardillo and sophomore Shannon Coleman serve as the two key returners to the Seawolves' attack. An All-Rookie selection her freshman year, Cardillo has bought in to Spallina's system and has become a more consistent player with good field vision. She started six games as a junior when former Stony Brook star Claire Petersen went down with a torn ACL and partially torn MCL last season and was named to the America East All-Championship team after totaling seven points during the two-match span.  She finished the year with 22 points on eight goals and 14 helpers.

Coleman started all 11 games she played in and put in six goals as a freshman before being sidelined with an injury. Healthy for the first time since arriving on campus, the lefty could be poised to have a breakout season. Classmate Natalie Marciniak has shown promise during the preseason and will look to contribute more this season after seeing action in two games as a freshman.

Two-time Under Armour High School All-American and first team All-Long Island honoree freshman Courtney Murphy is a pure, natural goal scorer out of William Floyd High School. Though only a freshman, Murphy has a great understanding of the game and is tough to get the ball from.

Rocky Point, N.Y., product Alyssa Guido is a feeder who prefers assists to goals but is a quality finisher. The playmaker is poised to be a huge part of Stony Brook's offensive evolution. She was an All-Suffolk County and all-division selection at Rocky Point High School and played on Team 91 Lacrosse for Dan Spallina, brother of Joe Spallina, and Stony Brook greats Petersen and Demmianne Cook.

Schedule

Four fellow 2013 NCAA Tournament teams highlight Stony Brook's non-conference slate, starting with Monmouth Feb. 19 at 1 p.m. The Seawolves head to South Bend, Ind., to rumble with Notre Dame, the alma mater of first-year assistant coach Jill Byers, Feb. 22. They host Florida, one of only two teams to beat them in 2013, March 1 at 1 p.m. and reigning Atlantic Sun Champion Jacksonville April 4 at 5 p.m. 

Stony Brook opens its season at home against Bucknell Feb. 15 at 1 p.m. and welcomes UMBC March 29 at 1 p.m. in its conference opener. The Seawolves lock horns with their rival Albany, which they have faced in the last two America East title games and beat last season, on the road April 12 before hosting New Hampshire on Senior Day April 19 at 1 p.m. 

Stony Brook plays its final two regular season games on the road at Delaware (April 22) and Vermont (April 26). The top seed will host the America East Championship May 2 and 4.