Joe Spallina had just delivered his speech and handed in his pre-game homework, but before his Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team left the locker room to play Syracuse, ranked fourth at the Carrier Dome last year, the Brash head coach paused.
He looked at his players, practically every one of them from Long Island, and asked how many of them had been recruited by Syracuse, one of the powers of college lacrosse. No one raised their hand. “Yeah,” Spallina told them, “because they don’t think you’re good.” With that, he walked out.
Encapsulated in this motivational test, Spallina has built a lacrosse dynasty in Stony Brook, a team made up of rambling, unannounced Long Islanders looking to prove a point. They certainly did that day, beating Syracuse, 17-16, with the help of four goals from Ally Kennedy, a dynamo midfielder from North Babylon who embodies the Long Island vs The World philosophy of Spallina.
“He reminds me every day that I have been overlooked,” said Kennedy, a fifth-year player who was only lightly drafted out of high school. With players like Kennedy, Spallina turned Stony Brook into a citadel of women’s lacrosse in less than a decade, taking a team at a mid-sized college with an undergraduate enrollment of around 17,000 students and making one of the best college athletic programs in the New York area, able to compete with some of the best lacrosse schools in the country.
“You look at the national rankings and there is a school that stands out,” Spallina said of her own team. “We do not belong to these schools. We are the ones who join the party and the record stops. We savor it.
Currently ranked No.6 in the country, the Seawolves have won eight straight Eastern American Conference regular season titles under Spallina and are looking for their eighth consecutive conference tournament title this week. The Seawolves have won 52 straight conference games dating back to 2014, a streak that traps only Oklahoma’s 65 straight Big 12 conference softball wins, mostly in all Division I sports than the NCAA. follows.
In recent years, the program has become a phenomenon in lacrosse circles, particularly on Long Island. The Seawolves placed second in women’s lacrosse programs twice in the three years leading up to the pandemic and their Instagram following of 16,000 is more than double that of any other Stony Brook team, including men’s lacrosse and the soccer.
Stony Brook has also produced some of the biggest stars in the sport, like 2018 graduate Kylie Ohlmiller, NCAA career leader in assists (246) and points (498); her younger sister Taryn, a fifth-year forward whose 37 assists are tied for ninth in the country; and Kennedy. All are from Long Island, all were dumped as high school rookies, and all reflect Spallina’s brassy self-confidence, both in himself and his players.
On match days, Spallina, dressed in a crisp tie and jacket, struts energetically on the sidelines giving instructions, but occasionally stops to laugh at a joke from one of her players on the sidelines. bench.
Once, when Kylie Ohlmiller had a rare tough game in her senior year, Spallina called her to the sidelines during the live action. Her defender dutifully stood right next to her, listening as Spallina told Ohlmiller that the defender wasn’t biting on his usual turns. He detailed exactly what he wanted Ohlmiller to do, and it resulted in more goals.
“He didn’t care that she was listening,” said Ohlmiller, who now plays professionally for Athletes Unlimited and has become the face of women’s lacrosse, but still helps Seawolves practice every now and then. “He was so confident in what I can do. This is the epitome of what he has done for my career.
Spallina calls the Ohlmillers, Kennedy and all the players on the rock star squad, and notes that they have become role models in the community, with schoolgirls across the island demanding autographs at the games.
The hometown section of the Seawolves list reads like the index of a Long Island atlas: Mount Sinai, Northport, Rockville Center, East Islip, North Babylon, and Long Beach. Ninety percent of the list comes from this lacrosse-rich region, 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,” said Kylie Ohlmiller.
In 2012, Spallina resumed a schedule that had reached 63-80 (.441) in his first nine years as a varsity sport (20-33 in East America). Since then, Stony Brook is 155-29 (0.842) overall and a stunning 55-2 in conference play.
To build this regional dynasty, Spallina tapped Long Island for all the hidden gems left behind after traditional powers swept the area. The top teams, including 3rd Syracuse and 1st North Carolina, also recruit well on Long Island. Each has multiple Islanders on their roster and the Tar Heels even snatched defenseman Maddie Hoffer just outside the town of Stony Brook. Maryland also has its share, including a pair from Spallina’s hometown of Rocky Point.
Teams like this can often attract premium recruits, while Spallina looks for those who stay, those who want more.
“It is the child who carries his bag to the car instead of giving it to his parents, the child who says:” Thank you, sorry and please “, the child who looks you in the eye . They are where their feet are, not the child who looks at the mountain and walks on the molehill.
Kylie Ohlmiller, from Islip, said very few other schools have recruited her – none of the great powers – and no one has shown more confidence in her than Spallina. Kennedy said the only other major college effort for her came from Ohio state.
Some of Spallina’s players were even overlooked in their own high school or travel teams, only to develop later. Spallina feeds their desire to show the world just how good they can become, as many tap into a reservoir of inner resentment over the big schools that have left them hanging.
“I’ll tell them, ‘I’m not trying to make you feel bad, but did North Carolina call you? Did Syracuse call you? No, they didn’t. That’s good, we’ll show them what they missed. ”
Spallina said Kennedy, whom he calls the best midfielder in the country, hasn’t even started for his travel team. Many felt that at 5-3, she was too short to play in midfield and not qualified enough for the attacking position. But she has 52 goals this year, which gives her 245 in her career, the third most in school history.
Spallina’s true feelings about Kennedy can be seen through the ID card he programmed for her into her smartphone. When Kennedy calls her, her screen displays the words “The Franchise.”
“He sold me the dream of playing for a nationally ranked team,” Kennedy said, “and now I’m living that dream.”
Spallina, 48, and his wife have five children, all of whom play lacrosse. His eldest son, Joey Spallina, recently signed up to Syracuse as the nation’s top 2022 rookie. Joe Spallina played both soccer and lacrosse at Adelphi University, then taught and coached boys’ lacrosse at Rocky Point High School, his alma mater. One day, the sports director asked her to coach the women’s team. He resisted at first, but this decision changed his life.
He also coached the New York Major League Lacrosse men’s team for nine years and the Adelphi women’s team, where he compiled a remarkable 73-2 record, including three Division II women’s championships. consecutive.
As the Seawolves enter their conference tournament on Thursday, the goal of reaching a Final Four and winning a national title has so far not been met. In 2018, Stony Brook was ranked No. 1 nationally from February to the end of the regular season, but was seeded fifth in the tournament and lost in double overtime to Boston College in the second round.
“We got a mid-major,” Spallina said. “We don’t pay the same rent as these guys, and we screwed each other.”
The Seawolves have made the NCAA Tournament every year Spallina was at Stony Brook, but have only reached the third round once. Until they do, players will continue to feel a bit left behind, like they did when the big college programs ignored them all outside of high school.
“That’s what we’ve been talking about in this small group over the past 10 years,” Kylie Ohlmiller said during Seawolves practice last week. “When that happens, I’ll be there. It will be a very, very proud moment for all of us who have already had that Stony Brook on our chest.