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Ashley Langford. Photo from SBU

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

She hasn’t scored a point or dished out an assist in a college basketball game since 2009. That hasn’t stopped Ashley Langford, Stony Brook University’s first-year women’s basketball coach, from mixing it up with the players.

A point guard who graduated from Tulane University and who holds the school record for the most assists, scored over 1,000 points, and, despite being five feet, five inches tall, brought down 403 rebounds for 25th in school history, Langford plans to tap into her playing experience at Stony Brook.

“I’m a hands-on head coach,” said Langford, who most recently was associate head coach at James Madison University in Virginia. “I’m a demonstrator.”

Langford, who took over for Caroline McCombs this year when the former coach joined George Washington University, believes she can help a team that won back-to-back America East Championships by stepping onto the floor during practices and drills.

When she’s guarding them, she wants to “see them do a move,” she said. “At a certain point, they get too good” for her skills, which is when she pats herself on the back, especially after she sees her players exuding increased confidence.

Langford is pleased with the start of her time at Stony Brook, where she has felt welcomed and supported by Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron and President Maurie McInnis.

“This is a big reason why I chose to come here,” Langford said. “The administration is great and the president has been awesome.”

Langford appreciates how Heilbron knows the names of so many student-athletes, which is consistent with her approach to coaching.

Langford believes her players and the coach should have similar expectations.

“I need to be connected to my players, and I want them to be connected to me,” Langford said. “I want players to come into my office and talk. I want that relationship.”

Langford has been working within the limitations of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules during the summer. She hopes to use this time to build a rapport with her team and help them learn her terminology and the drills she runs.

“I want to give them a preview” about her and the program, Langford said.

In making the transition from playing to coaching, Langford said she has tried to improve and grow. She believes she and her team should constantly strive to improve.

Coaching is “less about basketball and more about how you connect with your players,” Langford said.

To be sure, that connection doesn’t mean she coddles the team. She strives to be honest without sugarcoating the message. 

“When they’re doing well, I’m going to tell them,” she said. “When we need to be better, I’m going to tell them that, too.”

Langford explained that basketball has changed considerably since her playing days, as players have more resources available to them. She sang the praises of Elizabeth Zanolli, assistant athletic director for Sports Medicine, who supports the basketball and other teams.

Players also have nutritionists, dietitians, and strength and conditioning support, which improve the overall health and endurance of the athletes.

On the court, the men’s and women’s games have increasingly emphasized the value of the three-point shot, which means that most of the points in a game come from in the paint close to the basket or outside the three-point line, where long-range shooters can rack up points quickly.

Langford doesn’t see much of a difference between the men’s and women’s games.

“I want players to pass, dribble and shoot,” she said. “It’s that simple.”

The women's basketball team reacts to seeing itself in the NCAA Tournament bracket.

The Stony Brook women’s basketball team will face Arizona in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament next Monday at 2 p.m. ET in San Antonio on ESPN2.

The bracket was revealed during the ESPN-televised selection show on Monday night.

Making the program’s first-ever appearance in the Division I Big Dance, the Seawolves were awarded the No. 14 seed and pitted against the No. 3 Wildcats.

“It’s just magical for our women’s basketball program, our athletic department and our university to be recognized,” coach Caroline McCombs said.

Stony Brook student-athletes and staff gathered on the court at Island Federal Arena and were shown on ESPN during the selection show.

President Maurie McInnis addressed the team before the ESPN-televised event.

“The whole Seawolves nation will be watching you in San Antonio,” McInnis told the team. “We’re all so proud of you. What a great accomplishment for Stony Brook, for women’s basketball. What role models you are. We’re all so excited.”

The Seawolves clinched their historic bid on Friday, with a 64-60 win against Maine in the America East title game. Stony Brook rallied from an 11-point deficit, with Anastasia Warren pouring in 31 points.

Stony Brook departs for San Antonio on Tuesday morning via a chartered flight from Long Island MacArthur Airport.

The Seawolves waited a full year for this chance after last postseason was canceled on the eve of the championship game. This year’s title-clinching win came on the precise one-year anniversary of last year’s COVID-induced cancellation.

“It just makes it that much more special,” McCombs said. “Any time you can have some delayed gratification, that’s what we’ve waited for. I’m so proud of our perseverence throughout this season. We never knew what was going to happen, but our players were able to stick together.”

Photo from Stony Brook Athletics

Jadon Turner takes a handoff from Tyquell Fields during Saturday’s season opener against Villanova.

The Stony Brook football team waited 470 days to return to game action.

Unfortunately for the Seawolves, they fell to fifth-ranked Villanova, 16-13, in the opener to the six-game spring CAA Football season on Saturday, March 6 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

Trailing by nine points late in the fourth quarter, Stony Brook received life when Anthony Del Negro blocked a punt and Oniel Stanbury scooped it up, placing the Seawolves at the Villanova 13 with 3:29 remaining. Forty seconds later, Jayden Cook scored from two yards out to pull Stony Brook within three points.

Angelo Guglielmello then attempted an onside kick that Villanova’s Christian Benford caught and returned to the Stony Brook 15. Villanova ran out the clock from there.

Earlier, down 13-0, quarterback Tyquell Fields scampered in from seven yards out to move Stony Brook within a score in the third quarter.

Villanova had opened a 16-7 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 33-yard field goal from Cole Bunce that was set up by play that included a completion from Daniel Smith to TD Ayo-Durojaiye for 33 yards and a roughing-the-passer call that tacked on an additional 15 yards.

 

Hailey Zeise in action in Stony Brook’s America East semifinal victory. Photo by Andrew Theodorakis

The matchup everyone had been anticipating a year ago finally is ready to take place. The No. 2-seeded Stony Brook women’s basketball team defeated No. 3 UMass Lowell, 75-55, on Sunday, March 7 at Island Federal Arena in the America East semifinals.

That sets up a matchup at top-seeded Maine on Friday at 5 p.m. for the right to head to the NCAA Tournament.

Stony Brook and Maine had been set to meet a year ago in the America East finals on Long Island, with the seeds flipped, when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the conference tournament.

“We’re excited,” coach Caroline McCombs said. “It’s been a long journey, when you go back and think about the opportunity we had last year to play Maine at home. And now we get another opportunity. It’s not on our home floor, but we did all the little things in order to have an opportunity to play in this championship game. I’m just really proud of our players.”

On Sunday, the Seawolves (14-5) used a 21-8 second quarter to turn a one-point lead into a comfortable advantage.

Anastasia Warren, Asiah Dingle, India Pagan and Earlette Scott scored in double-figures in the victory.

“We really wanted this for us,” Warren said. “… It means so much to me and my teammates, even the transfers who came. We wanted this so much for each other, because obviously you know what happened last year.”

Evan Fox (7) is congratulated after doubling on his first collegiate swing and scoring en route to being named America East Rookie of the Week.

The Stony Brook baseball team came up just short of a season-opening series sweep against Sacred Heart last weekend.

The Seawolves did sweep the first America East weekly player honors of 2021 on Monday.

Sam Turcotte earned Pitcher of the Week, John LaRocca earned Player of the Week and Evan Fox earned Rookie of the Week recognition.

Turcotte, a graduate student from Toronto, retired the first 21 batters he faced in a 7-1 win in Game 2 of Friday’s season-opening doubleheader against Sacred Heart. He then surrendered a single with his 85th and final pitch against the first batter of the eighth. That baserunner eventually came around to score for the only earned run surrendered by Stony Brook in the three-game series.

LaRocca, who transferred from Division II New York Tech after the suspension of that school’s athletics program, set the tone for the season by driving in the lone run in a 1-0 victory in Game 1 on Friday. The center fielder produced a team-best .556 average (5-for-9) with two doubles, two runs scored, three RBIs and two steals during his first games with the Seawolves.

Fox, a freshman from upstate Ballston Spa, earned his first start in Friday’s second game. He doubled with his first collegiate swing and scored what ultimately became the deciding run. Fox (1-for-3 in the game) also had a diving catch in left field after exclusively playing infield throughout his teenage years.

The Seawolves (2-1) return to play with noon doubleheaders against UMass on Saturday and Sunday at Joe Nathan Field.

Photo from Stony Brook Athletics

Jimmy Morrell (29) charges forward during the first quarter against Hofstra on Saturday.

The Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team entered the USILA rankings this week for the first time in four years. And things are looking bright under second-year head coach Anthony Gilardi.

However, the 17th-ranked Seawolves suffered their first blemish of the season on Feb. 27, falling to host Hofstra, 20-17.

With the teams deadlocked in the third quarter, Dylan Pallonetti had a pair of goals and Wayne White also scored to open a 14-11 lead. However, Hofstra answered with five straight goals to take a two-goal lead early in the fourth quarter.

Pallonetti’s fifth goal of the game stopped Hofstra’s run and pulled the Seawolves within 16-15 with 11:35 remaining. But Hofstra did not relinquish the lead the rest of the way.

Pallonetti finished with a team-high five goals in the defeat. Tom Haun and Mike McCannell each added a hat trick. Haun moved to 99 career goals.

Stony Book won only 14 of 41 faceoffs.

“Obviously it’s not the result we wanted in a rivalry game,” coach Anthony Gilardi said. “It came down to making stops and winning faceoffs. We struggled in those two areas. Credit to Hofstra. They did a great job of earning high-quality shots and finishing the ball. We will watch the film, learn from it and get back to work on Monday as we open America East play.”

Photo from Stony Brook Athletics

Nia Wattley (7) had 15 kills last Sunday.

The Stony Brook women’s volleyball team suffered a second straight five-set heartbreaker to begin conference play. UMBC swept matches on consecutive days against the freshman-laden Seawolves, winning 25-23, 19-25, 25-21, 19-25, 15-9 on Feb. 27 at Pritchard Gymnasium.

Nia Wattley had a team-high 15 kills. Kiani Kerstetter and Torri Henry had 21 digs apiece.

The Seawolves (0-5, 0-2 AE) return to action on March 7 with a doubleheader at NJIT.

Photo by Andrew Theodorakis

Sam Turcotte took a perfect-game bid into the eighth inning in Game 2 on Feb. 26

John LaRocca set the tone and Sam Turcotte put an exclamation point on the first February on-campus baseball games in program history.

Turcotte, 6-foot-3 right-hander from Toronto, took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of the nightcap as Stony Brook swept a season-opening doubleheader against Sacred Heart, 1-0 and 7-1, at Joe Nathan Field on Friday.

Stony Brook (2-0) limited an opponent to one run over the opening two games of a season for the first time since performing the feat against Florida Atlantic in 2011.

It marked the first-ever February games on campus for Stony Brook and the first home opener since 1996. It ended up being a sunny, mid-40s day amid the snow piles just beyond the playing field.

“It’s unbelievable it’s the last weekend in Feburary and we played in the weather we did today,” coach Matt Senksaid. “It couldn’t have been better.”

LaRocca, a graduate student like Turcotte, had a memorable debut.

LaRocca helped lead New York Tech to a Division II College World Series appearance in 2019. Then, the Division II school disbanded its athletic program and he transferred to Stony Brook.

In his first Division I baseball game in three years, since his first college stop at Monmouth, LaRocca delivered a critical hit in his Seawolves debut.

Benefiting from a shift, the lefty-hitting LaRocca sent a roller down the third-base line for a double that plated Chris Hamilton from first base in the sixth inning for the lone run in Game 1.

Evan Giordano and LaRocca then drove in two runs apiece to support Turcotte in Game 2.

“I’m just happy to be back out here, especially after what happened at my old school,” LaRocca said.

LaRocca could not recall ever previously batting cleanup, which he did in the opener before moving to his customary No. 2 slot for Game 2.

“It’s those extra 15 pounds I put on,” LaRocca joked.

Nick DeGennaro, slated to be the No. 4 starter once America East play begins, earned the win in relief in Game 1. DeGennaro, a junior right-hander from Toms River, N.J., tossed the final 2 2/3 innings in relief of Jared Milch.

Milch had retired the first eight Sacred Heart batters he faced.

DeGennaro stranded the potential tying run in scoring position in the seventh and final inning with a game-ending strikeout of Steven Schoe. He also had stranded a pair of runners in scoring position the previous inning.

In Game 2, Giordano contributed a second-inning solo homer to open the scoring.

Freshman Evan Fox made his collegiate debut as the starter in left field in the nightcap and made a diving catch of a liner in the third to record the inning’s opening out —  a feat since Fox had not played the outfield since he was 12 years old. On his first college swing, a half-inning later, Fox led off by doubling down the left-field line and ultimately scored on a Brett Paulsen’s double in what became a three-run third.

Turcotte departed after 85 pitches, after surrendering a leadoff single in the eighth to Robert Farruggio. Turcotte had retired the game’s first 21 batters.

The last no-hitter in program history remains the third of Frankie Vanderka’s career, in 2014 against UAlbany.

“That was the longest I’ve ever had anything like that — any kind of perfect game, no-hitter, even shutout, honestly,” Turcotte said. “You’ve got to credit everybody. Anytime you put up seven runs on 11 hits, you’re going to win a lot of games.”

Stony Brook and Sacred Heart aim to complete the three-game weekend series on Sunday at 1 p.m. Right-hander Brian Herrmann is slated to start for the Seawolves. He will make his first college appearance since April 13, 2019, after which he underwent Tommy John surgery.

Alex Christie started for a second straight game on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Stony Brook Athletics

The Stony Brook men’s basketball team is headed to the America East Tournament as the seventh seed.

The Seawolves dropped their regular-season finale, 67-59, at UAlbany on Feb. 21 to complete the regular season 9-13 overall and 7-9 in league play.

Coupled with an NJIT loss, the Seawolves earned the No. 7 seed and will face No. 6 UMass Lowell at New Hampshire on Saturday at 1 p.m.

The winner faces No. 3 seed and pod host UNH the following day.

“We’re excited to play against a really good Lowell team,” said coach Geno Ford, whose squad swept UMass Lowell during the regular season. “It’ll be a hard game. They played us well both times.”

Stony Brook split a pair of games this weekend with the Great Danes.

On Sunday, the Seawolves continued to play shorthanded as Mouhamadou Gueye remained unavailable.

Tykei Greene nonetheless stepped up with a double-double for the second straight day and his fifth of the season.

Juan Felix Rodriguez also scored in double-figures.

Lenny Kadisha made his first collegiate start. Alex Christie also started for the second straight day.

“I really want to give a lot of credit to Dan Leonard, our trainer, who has had to deal with testing, protocols, travel, and really has carried the brunt of the load with all of that, which has allowed the coaches and players to stay safe. He’s been the real MVP of our season,” Ford said. “I don’t think a lot of people had confidence within college basketball that we’d get this far. We have.”

 

Matt DeMeo works against Bryant midfielder Jon Miller on Saturday at LaValle Stadium. Photo courtesy of Stony Brook Athletics

The Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team cracked the Inside Lacrosse media poll’s top-20 rankings last week for the first time in four years.

And things continue to look up for coach Anthony Gilardi‘s Seawolves in Year 2 at the helm.

No. 20 Stony Brook clamped down on defense after halftime and produced a 14-8 win against Bryant on Feb. 20 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

Stony Brook (2-0) has won consecutive games to open a season for the first time since 2017 — the same season the Seawolves last were ranked.

The Seawolves limited Bryant to one goal after intermission.

Wayne White gave Stony Brook its first lead, 8-7, when he opened the third-quarter scoring with 6 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the period.

Mike McCannell followed with a goal less than two minutes later for a two-goal cushion and Stony Brook led the rest of the way.

Bryant was held scoreless for 14:16 spanning the middle two quarters. And once that drought was broken to pull the Bulldogs within 9-8, USILA Team of the Week selection Dylan Pallonetti got on the scoreboard for the first time on the afternoon with a tough-angle unassisted goal. That was the first of six straight goals for Stony Brook, which held the Bulldogs scoreless over the final 19:11.

Goalie Anthony Palma made a career-high 16 saves to improve to 2-0 in two collegiate starts.

“We started off rocky, but our defense knows how to play the game,” Palma said. “We just really sunk in and played our game. We didn’t get overexcited. We calmed down and we did what we had to do.”

Said Gilardi about Palma: “He has that in him to get hot. He’s been really consistent this entire year. We knew he would settle in.”

Pallonetti had produced six goals in last Saturday’s season-opening win against Sacred Heart — a program record for a collegiate debut.

Bryant (1-1) had opened Saturday’s game with four straight goals during the opening five minutes. The Seawolves then answered with four straight goals of their own — including the opening pair by Cory VanGinhoven — to even the score at 4 after one quarter.

VanGinhoven produced his second straight hat trick to open the season. McCannell also had a had trick, his first since April 20, 2018, against UMass Lowell.

Matt DeMeo and Matt Anderson contributed  two goals apiece for the Seawolves.

White had a pair of assists in addition to his tiebreaking goal.

Stony Brook avenged a loss at Bryant last year, after which the season was shut down due to the pandemic.

“I wish there was some big Knute Rockne speech at halftime,” Gilardi said. “It was just, ‘Hey, we knew this was what the game was going to be like. Let’s continue to do what we do offensively, defensively and in the clearing game.’ And Palma really stepped up in the goal and made some unbelievable saves.”

Stony Brook returned to action on Saturday, Feb. 27 at Hofstra.