STONY BROOK, N.Y. – The scenario was eerily familiar. The Virginia men's lacrosse team led Stony Brook, 10-9, with less than a minute to go in a game at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Stony Brook’s campus.
The last time Stony Brook and Virginia played, it was in the NCAA quarterfinals in front of a packed house at the same venue, and the same scoreline stood with a minute remaining. In that one, Stony Brook’s last-ditch efforts came up short and Virginia advanced to the final four.
This time, it would require a little more work from the Cavaliers, but Steele Stanwick made sure the end result remained the same. Stanwick capped off a five-goal, two-assist performance with the game-winning goal with 44 seconds remaining in overtime to lift top-ranked Virginia to an 11-10 victory over fifth-ranked Stony Brook.
"I give our kids a lot of credit," said Virginia head coach Dom Starsia. "We saddled them defensively the entire game, but you can't stop them from making all the plays. It was a great lacrosse game – another great matchup, another great atmosphere here in Stony Brook."
Stony Brook tied the game with three seconds remaining in regulation. Out of a Seawolves timeout, the ball made its way to the stick of Russ Bonanno. He waited behind the net for a few tantalizing seconds as his teammates cleared out, then charged towards the left and fired past Virginia goalkeeper Adam Ghitelman to tie the game at 10 and send it to overtime.
The Seawolves got possession off the opening faceoff in overtime, but could not convert on two shots. The Cavaliers could not score either, but Stony Brook’s clearing attempt went horribly awry, ending up in the stick of Steele Stanwick, who with 44 seconds to go in overtime grabbed the loose ball in front of the Stony Brook net and fired it home to give Virginia the win and send Seawolves players to their knees in exhausted disappointment.
“It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time,” Stanwick said of the goal, his fifth of the game and eighth of the season. “Sometimes you need a little luck.”
The Cavaliers improved to 3-0. It was the first game of the year for Stony Brook, who have never beaten the Cavaliers and lost to Virginia for the ninth time in school history.
“I wouldn’t say frustrating, it’s more disappointing,” said Seawolves senior midfielder Kevin Crowley, Lacrosse Magazine's Division I preseason player of the year. “But we have a lot of lacrosse left.”
Both teams were without star players, as Stony Brook’s Tom Compitello sat out with an illness and Rhamel and Shamel Bratton of Virginia were suspended for what Cavaliers head coach Dom Starsia classified as “violations of team policy.”
They may have missed the Bratton brothers early, as the teams managed just one goal apiece in the first quarter. Stanwick scored early on a defensive mistake, but the Seawolves settled down after a Crowley goal leveled the score.
Ghitelman and senior Rob Camposa, making his first start for Stony Brook, each made two saves in the first quarter. Ghitelman earned his 40th career win, tying him atop the Cavaliers all-time wins list. He finished with 10 saves to Camposa’s 11.
After going down 3-1 with less than five minutes to go in the first half, Virginia climbed back to even terms courtesy of Stanwick and freshman attack Mark Cockerton, who scored goals a minute apart to tie the game at three going into halftime.
Virginia controlled the game through the third and stretched its lead to three goals midway through the fourth quarter.
Senior Adam Rand took over the faceoff circle late in the game when Stony Brook needed it most, however. Rand won nine of 12 fourth quarter faceoffs and the only faceoff of overtime.
The floodgates opened late in the fourth quarter, with the teams combining for nine goals in the final seven minutes of regulation. The Seawolves trailed by two when Colin Briggs scored with 1:12 remaining to put the Cavaliers up 10-8, but Crowley scored with 21 seconds to go, and Bonanno’s goal with three seconds left sent the game to overtime. Crowley finished with four goals and an assist.
But the Seawolves could not earn revenge for last season’s NCAA tournament ousting.
“Unlike last season, this is just the beginning, not the end,” Seawolves head coach Rick Sowell said. “We feel confident that we’ll continue to get better.”
For Virginia, it was a win that serves as a confidence boost for a team already riding high. “For us to come on the road to Stony Brook and win is important for this team as we move forward,” Starsia said.
The Seawolves will play at Marist on March 5, while the Cavaliers will host VMI on Feb. 28.