Joe Spallina had simply delivered his speech and handed out his pregame assignments, however earlier than his Stony Brook girls’s lacrosse group left the locker room to play fourth-ranked Syracuse on the Carrier Dome final 12 months, the brash head coach paused.
He checked out his gamers, just about each one of them from Long Island, and requested what number of of them had been recruited by Syracuse, one of the powerhouses of faculty 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 inspiration upon which Spallina has constructed a lacrosse dynasty at Stony Brook, a group constructed of scrappy, unheralded Long Islanders seeking 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 girls’s lacrosse in lower than a decade, taking a group at a mid-sized college with an undergraduate enrollment of about 17,000 college students and making it one of the most effective faculty sports activities packages within the New York area, in a position to compete with some of the most effective lacrosse faculties within the nation.
“You look at the national rankings and there is one school that sticks out,” Spallina stated of his personal group. “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 gained 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 gained 52 straight convention video games relationship again to 2014, a streak that trails solely Oklahoma softball’s 65 consecutive convention wins within the Big 12 for essentially the most in any Division I sport that the N.C.A.A. tracks.
In current years, this system has grow to be a phenomenon in lacrosse circles, particularly on Long Island. The Seawolves positioned second in attendance amongst girls’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 group, 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 mirror Spallina’s brassy self-confidence, each in himself and his gamers.
On recreation days, Spallina, wearing a crisp tie and jacket, energetically struts the sidelines issuing directions, however will pause often to snicker at a joke from one of his gamers on the bench.
Once, when Kylie Ohlmiller was having a uncommon powerful recreation throughout her senior 12 months, Spallina known as her over to the sideline throughout dwell 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 girls’s lacrosse, however nonetheless helps out at Seawolves practices sometimes. “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 group rock stars, and notes that they’ve grow to be function fashions in the neighborhood, with schoolgirls from all around 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 % 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 standard powerhouses sweep the realm. The high groups, together with No. 3 Syracuse and No. 1 North Carolina, additionally recruit properly on Long Island. Each has a number of Islanders on their rosters 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 typically 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 faculties recruited her — none of the main 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 internal resentment over the large faculties 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 most effective midfielder within the nation, didn’t even begin for her journey group. 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 12 months, giving her 245 in her profession, the third most in class historical past.
Spallina’s true emotions about Kennedy are seen by the ID he programmed for her into his smartphone. When Kennedy calls him, his display 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, not too long ago 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 educate the women group. He initially resisted, however the transfer modified his life.
He additionally coached the New York males’s Major League Lacrosse group for 9 years and the ladies’s group at Adelphi, the place he compiled a outstanding 73-2 report, together with three consecutive Division II girls’s championships.
As the Seawolves enter their convention event on Thursday, the aim of reaching a Final Four and profitable a nationwide title has up to now 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 extra time 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 overlooked, a lot the best way they did when the large faculty 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.”