Janine Hillier transferred from Florida and arrived at Stony Brook University just in time to help the Seawolves launch a breakout lacrosse season in 2012.
The senior attacker and team captain continues to make an impact this year, with 36 goals and 20 assists as a starter in all 14 games for Stony Brook (12-2, 4-0), which is nationally ranked at No. 10 in both the coaches' poll and deBeer media poll as of Monday.
She said she originally expected that fitting in with a new lineup would be challenging; the reality couldn't be farther from the truth. "The transition wasn’t difficult at all. ... The team chemistry here is outstanding and I think it made the transition here so much easier," she said.
Hillier, a 5-5 attacker, is a product of Farmingdale High School – which won state Class A championships three out of her four years in high school. She was named the MVP of the state championship game in 2008 and 2009, and totaled 164 goals and 143 assists in her high school career. Hillier was also an Under Armour All American and a US Lacrosse first-team All-American.
"It feels like that was forever ago," she said. "I had a great coaching staff at Farmingdale. I feel like if it wasn’t for them instilling this drive, I wouldn’t be where I am today."
She said that "every practice in high school, every game, every win" impacted the kind of player she is today.
"We lost one state championship. That made me not want to lose again," she said. "I learned a lot of life lessons that I brought to college with me."
Head coach Joe Spallina said Hillier brings a different dimension to the team, having played lacrosse on such a high level at Florida (15-1), which is ranked within the top five in both women's college lacrosse polls.
"We’re loving every second with her," he said. "She can take a game over. When she’s done well, our team does well."
Not only does Hillier hold her own, he said, but she also complements two other major forces on the team – senior attacker Claire Petersen and senior midfielder Demmianne Cook.
"Claire is a great passer and Demmi’s a great dodger, and I think Janine does both of those things. You can see from her stat lines, she’s able to do a lot of things," Spallina said. "Janine’s pretty well balanced and that’s a good characteristic to have."
Hillier said the team is "on the map" now – and that it is working towards more than just an America East conference championship: The Seawolves have their sights set on Final Four action.
"The vision for this program is way beyond the rank we have now," she said. "We’re just working day in day out, on and off the field, trying to get to the national championship."