Playing in the NCAA Tournament is always a special achievement for any college. Sometimes it takes years for a college to finally get a ticket to the big ball, and some schools do it on a regular basis.

Think about what it takes for a college program to make it to the NCAA Tournament ten years in a row.

That’s exactly what the Stony Brook University women’s hockey team has done. The women’s Seawolves (14-3, 7-0 CAA) are in the NCAA Tournament for the 10th straight year, and this year’s tournament will take on Penn State (11-6, 3-3 Big 10) in Baltimore on Friday at 3 p.m.

“It’s been fantastic,” said head coach Joe Spallina, now in his 12th year at the helm of the Seawolves.

“Every year, the team has its own identity. There are a lot of kids who are experiencing it for the first time and there are a lot of kids who are experiencing it for the last time. You want to try and keep inspiring young players who are doing it for the first time. For the last experience For the players, they want to savor every moment.”

Last season, Stony Brook won the At-Large bid after winning eight straight US East titles, and this year they are the Colonial Athletic Association champions for the first time.

After 20 years in the Eastern United States, Stony Brook University has decided to join the Colonial Athletic Association. This season marks the first time in the CAA for the Seawolves, who made their name by winning the conference title.

Ellie Masera, Hailey Duchnowski, Kailyn Hart and Clare Levy were named to the CAA All-NBA Team, while Masera earned Most Outstanding Performer honors with 14 points on 9 goals and 5 assists and 19 tie controls.

Those aren’t the only honors Stony Brook has received this season.

Masera was named CAA Midfielder of the Year and was named to the All-CAA First Team along with teammates Hart and Levy, while Morgan Mitchell, Jaden Hampel, Charlotte Verhulst and Haley Dillon were named to the All-CAA Second Team. Spallina received CAA Coach of the Year honors, the seventh time in his career that he has been named Conference Coach of the Year.

It’s been a pretty good decade in lacrosse for Stony Brook, and it’s a great way to start a new conference.

“You always want to put your best foot forward,” Spallina said. “You want to show yourself and let them know who you are. Our goals and ambitions are obviously more than just winning conference championships.”

Winning the conference is only the first step for Stony Brook. The next step up is Penn State’s Big Ten, which has a big win over Maryland, one of the nation’s top teams, this season.

The Seawolves did their homework on the Nittany Lions this week.

“I think it’s the funnest time of the year because you don’t really have a lot of time to prepare the team,” Spallina said. “We have a lot of respect for Penn State. We know we have to give it our all. Like any other sport, playoff lacrosse is a little bit different. The stakes are higher. Every game means more.”

Stony Brook is 2-0 against Penn State, but this will be the first meeting between the two schools in the NCAA Tournament.

If the Seawolves can beat the Nittany Lions on Friday, they will meet the champions of the Loyola Maryland/Fairfield Championship on Sunday.

The Stony Brook women’s hockey program is a true Long Island success story.

After serving as head coach of the Division II Adelphi team, Sparina moved to Division I and turned Stony Brook into a nationally elite team. Stony Brook certainly faced some challenges in recruiting nationally, but what they were able to do was build the program with some home cooking.

“For us to be a mainstay on the national stage, we knew we had to win the island and we had to do a good job recruiting the top kids from Long Island,” said Spallina, who led Stony Brook to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. Four of his past five appearances.

“We know the only way to do this is to be successful. We don’t have a 70,000-seat football stadium. We don’t have an overbudget. We have a successful program built on relationships, respect and love between our players and their families above.”

Long Island is one of the largest lacrosse hotbeds in the United States. Many of the best players in the world hail from Long Island, and it’s only fitting that the local college should be the destination for these top players.

Stony Brook is proof that success can start and continue on Long Island.

Above: The Stony Brook women’s hockey team celebrates after a big win this season. (Credit: Craig Chase/CAA)

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