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Building a Lacrosse Powerhouse Out of Overlooked Recruits


Joe Spallina had simply delivered his speech and handed out his pregame assignments, however earlier than his Stony Brook ladies’s lacrosse crew left the locker room to play fourth-ranked Syracuse on the Carrier Dome final yr, the brash head coach paused.

He checked out his gamers, nearly each one of them from Long Island, and requested what number of of them had been recruited by Syracuse, one of the powerhouses of school lacrosse. No one raised a hand. “Yeah,” Spallina informed them, “because they don’t think you’re any good.” With that, he walked out.

Encapsulated in that one motivational poke examine is the muse upon which Spallina has constructed a lacrosse dynasty at Stony Brook, a crew constructed of scrappy, unheralded Long Islanders trying to show a level. They definitely did in order that day, beating Syracuse, 17-16, with the assistance of 4 objectives from Ally Kennedy, a dynamo midfielder from North Babylon, who embodies Spallina’s Long Island vs. The World ethos.

“He reminds me every day that I was overlooked,” stated Kennedy, a fifth-year participant who was solely evenly recruited out of highschool. With gamers like Kennedy, Spallina has turned Stony Brook into a citadel of ladies’s lacrosse in lower than a decade, taking a crew at a mid-sized college with an undergraduate enrollment of about 17,000 college students and making it one of the perfect school sports activities packages within the New York area, in a position to compete with some of the perfect lacrosse colleges within the nation.

“You look at the national rankings and there is one school that sticks out,” Spallina stated of his personal crew. “We don’t belong with those schools. We’re the ones who walk into the party and the record stops. We savor that.”

Currently ranked No. 6 within the nation, the Seawolves have received eight consecutive America East Conference regular-season titles underneath Spallina and are going for his or her eighth straight convention event title this week. The Seawolves have received 52 straight convention video games courting again to 2014, a streak that trails solely Oklahoma softball’s 65 consecutive convention wins within the Big 12 for probably the most in any Division I sport that the N.C.A.A. tracks.

In latest years, this system has grow to be a phenomenon in lacrosse circles, particularly on Long Island. The Seawolves positioned second in attendance amongst ladies’s lacrosse packages twice within the three years earlier than the pandemic and their Instagram following of 16,000 is greater than double another Stony Brook crew, together with males’s lacrosse and soccer.

Stony Brook has additionally produced some of the game’s largest stars, just like the 2018 graduate Kylie Ohlmiller, the N.C.A.A.’s profession chief in assists (246) and factors (498); her youthful sister Taryn, a fifth-year attacker whose 37 assists are tied for ninth-highest within the nation; and Kennedy. All are from Long Island, all had been undervalued as highschool recruits, and all replicate Spallina’s brassy self-confidence, each in himself and his gamers.

On sport days, Spallina, wearing a crisp tie and jacket, energetically struts the sidelines issuing directions, however will pause sometimes to chortle at a joke from one of his gamers on the bench.

Once, when Kylie Ohlmiller was having a uncommon robust sport throughout her senior yr, Spallina referred to as her over to the sideline throughout reside motion. Her defender dutifully stood proper subsequent to her, listening in whereas Spallina informed Ohlmiller that the defender was not biting on her standard methods. He detailed precisely what he wished Ohlmiller to do, and it resulted in additional objectives.

“He didn’t care she was listening,” stated Ohlmiller, who now performs professionally for Athletes Unlimited and has emerged because the face of ladies’s lacrosse, however nonetheless helps out at Seawolves practices every so often. “He had such confidence in what I can do. That is the epitome of what he’s done for my career.”

Spallina calls the Ohlmillers, Kennedy and all of the gamers on the crew rock stars, and notes that they’ve grow to be function fashions locally, with schoolgirls from everywhere in the island demanding autographs at video games.

The hometown part of the Seawolves roster reads just like the index of a Long Island atlas: Mount Sinai, Northport, Rockville Centre, East Islip, North Babylon and Long Beach. Ninety p.c of the roster comes from that lacrosse-rich area, and Spallina calls it self-sustaining.

“We’re all from Long Island and we’re building this whole community of Long Island lacrosse fans, young girls coming to Stony Brook to watch women’s lacrosse,” stated Kylie Ohlmiller.

In 2012, Spallina took over a program that had gone 63-80 (.441) in its first 9 years as a varsity sport (20-33 within the America East). Since then, Stony Brook is 155-29 (.842) over all and an astonishing 55-2 in convention play.

To construct this regional dynasty, Spallina has mined Long Island for all of the hidden gems left behind after the normal powerhouses sweep the world. The high groups, together with No. 3 Syracuse and No. 1 North Carolina, additionally recruit effectively on Long Island. Each has a number of Islanders on its roster and the Tar Heels even plucked defender Maddie Hoffer proper out of the city of Stony Brook. Maryland has its share, too, together with a pair from Spallina’s hometown, Rocky Point.

Teams like that may usually entice the premium recruits, whereas Spallina appears to be like for those left behind, the gritty ones who might want it extra.

“It’s the kid who carries their bag to the car instead of handing it to their parents, the kid who says, ‘Thank you, sorry and please,’ the kid that looks you in the eye. They are where their feet are, not the kid who is looking at the mountain and trips on the mole hill.”

Kylie Ohlmiller, who’s from Islip, stated only a few different colleges recruited her — none of the key powers — and that nobody confirmed as a lot religion in her as Spallina. Kennedy stated the one different big-college push for her was from Ohio State.

Some of Spallina’s gamers had been even missed on their very own highschool or journey groups, solely to develop later. Spallina nurtures their need to indicate the world how good they will grow to be, for a lot of tapping into a reservoir of interior resentment over the large colleges having left them dangling.

“I’ll tell them, ‘I’m not trying to make you feel bad, but did North Carolina call you? No. Did Syracuse call you? No, they didn’t. That’s fine, we’re going to show them what they missed.’”

Spallina stated that Kennedy, whom he calls the perfect midfielder within the nation, didn’t even begin for her journey crew. Many felt that at 5-foot-3, she was too small to play midfield and never expert sufficient for the assault place. But she has 52 objectives this yr, giving her 245 in her profession, the third most at school historical past.

Spallina’s true emotions about Kennedy are seen by way of the ID he programmed for her into his smartphone. When Kennedy calls him, his display screen flashes the phrases, “The Franchise.”

“He sold me on the dream of playing on a nationally ranked team,” Kennedy stated, “and now I’m living that dream.”

Spallina, 48, and his spouse have 5 children, all of whom play lacrosse. His oldest son, Joey Spallina, just lately dedicated to Syracuse as the highest 2022 recruit within the nation. Joe Spallina performed each soccer and lacrosse at Adelphi University after which taught and coached boys lacrosse at Rocky Point High School, his alma mater. One day the athletic director there requested him to teach the women crew. He initially resisted, however the transfer modified his life.

He additionally coached the New York males’s Major League Lacrosse crew for 9 years and the ladies’s crew at Adelphi, the place he compiled a exceptional 73-2 document, together with three consecutive Division II ladies’s championships.

As the Seawolves enter their convention event on Thursday, the purpose of reaching a Final Four and successful a nationwide title has to this point been unrealized. In 2018, Stony Brook was ranked No. 1 within the nation from February till the tip of the common season, however had been handed the fifth seed within the event and misplaced in double time beyond regulation at Boston College within the second spherical.

“We got mid-majored,” Spallina stated. “We don’t pay the same rent those guys do, and we got screwed.”

The Seawolves have made the N.C.A.A. event yearly that Spallina has been at Stony Brook however have made it to the third spherical solely as soon as. Until they do, the gamers will proceed to really feel a little disregarded, a lot the best way they did when the large school packages ignored all of them out of highschool.

“It’s what we’ve talked about in that huddle for the last 10 years,” Kylie Ohlmiller stated at a Seawolves follow final week. “When it does happen, I will be here. It’s going to be a very, very proud moment for all of us who have ever had that Stony Brook across our chest.”



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