By Vincent Barone 

The preseason for the Stony Brook lacrosse team was the most auspicious couple of months that any university sports team has ever had.  After a stellar 2010 season, four returning Seawolves were selected in the Major League Lacrosse draft this past January, including midfielder Kevin Crowley, the number one overall pick.

With seasoned, professional-grade cast, Stony Brook found themselves climbing the coach’s preseason poll to ultimately sit as the fifth ranked team in the nation, the highest rank in the program’s history.

The Seawolves earned a spot on the front cover of Lacrosse Magazine and were featured in the New York Times; Stony Brook has joined the who’s who of the lacrosse world. But the preseason plaudits all but erased the memories of Stony Brook’s disheartening, 10-9 postseason loss to Virginia last May, which ended the Seawolves’ 2010 season just short of the NCAA semifinals.

On Saturday’s season opener, the Seawolves once again suffered a disheartening loss to top-ranked Virginia, 11-10, in overtime. The game was the culmination of months of accolades. Yet all it took was a clearing snafu from Stony Brook to let the game slip away.

After a dramatic set of scoring volleys from both teams, Stony Brook’s Russ Bonanno sent the game to overtime, notching the game-tying goal with just five seconds left the fourth quarter. But in overtime, with just 44 seconds left, Steele Stanwick, Virginia’s Johnny-on-the-spot, won the game after capitalizing on a defensive faux pas by the Seawolves in front of their own net.

The match was a true test for Stony Brook, who has been demanding the reverence from those who follow the sport. And respect for the Seawolves endured the devastating loss.

“Coming to Stony Brook, somebody might say, ‘eh, that’s not that tough a chore, Dom,’ and that’s not the truth anymore,” said Virginia Cavaliers Head Coach Dom Starsia at the opening day post-game press conference. “Clearly this team here is not a secret by any stretch of the imagination.”

The Seawolves traipsed to the post-game press conference behind Head Coach Rick Sowell. For seniors like Crowley and Jordan McBride, it might have been the last opportunity to beat Virginia, who has narrowly bested Stony Brook in their last three meetings.

“I wouldn’t say it was frustrating as it is disappointing,” said Crowley. “I would obviously love nothing more to get a win for the home crowd that came out and supported us. It came down to some key turnovers during the game, but…it’s our first game of the year and we have a lot of Lacrosse left.”

Stony Brook dropped to seventh in the polls, after the loss. They were the unanimous pick to win the America East and if the Seawolves and Virginia play up to their expectations, the two may cross paths once more in the postseason. Relatively speaking, this potential matchup could be one of the biggest Stony Brook sporting events in years.

“Unlike the last time we played [Virginia], this is just the beginning of our season, not the end,” said Coach Sowell.  “We still got a long season ahead of us, but there were two good teams playing out there. I’m certainly proud of our team…”

The Seawolves will traverse to Poughkeepsie on March 5, to take on Marist. The last time the two faced was during the 2008 regular season. Stony Brook drubbed the Red Foxes 14-4 and is the favorites to win Saturday.