(MEHMET TEMEL / THE STATESMAN)
Senior midfielder Shane Wixted has been a leader for his team both on and off the soccer field. (MEHMET TEMEL / THE STATESMAN)

Midfielder Shane Wixted has become one of the Seawolves’ most reliable defensive players. But, this season, the most important thing he can likely bring to a very inexperienced Stony Brook team is leadership.

“I feel like I need to be a leader for this team,” Wixted said. “I need to lead by being vocal as well as by example.”

Last season Wixted played a large role in a Seawolves defense that only gave up 22 goals in 18 games. The team gave up the third least amount of goals in the America East conference. Stony Brook’s defense also shut out their opponents six times last year.

“We had a good backline,” Wixted said. “We had really good goalkeeping. It was a team collective effort. Everybody worked really hard off the ball.”

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Now, with many of the players from last year’s defense having graduated, head coach Ryan Anatol will be looking for consistently strong play from the senior. So far through training camp, Anatol has liked what he has seen from Wixted.

“He’s in a good place right now,” Anatol said. “He’s showed up in the right frame of mind, for the preseason. I expect good things from him this year.”

Anatol has known Wixted since their days at the University of South Florida, where Anatol was the head coach, and Wixted was one of the players he recruited. Wixted played 18 games for Anatol at South Florida in 2010. That year he helped Anatol’s team earn an appearance in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Last season the two were reunited again, when Wixted joined the Seawolves. And having his former coach at his new school made the transition for him much easier.

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“Coach is great,” said Wixted. “He’s really encouraging. He pushes everybody. He expects a lot out of guys, but he’s a really good guy, and a good coach.”

Anatol has similar feelings about the player he’s known for almost five years now.

“It’s been a joy (to coach him),” said Anatol. “It’s been a pleasure to watch him develop.”

Wixted is one of the few familiar faces at Anatol’s training camp this year. With over half the roster featuring new personnel, there are many questions about whether the team can duplicate their success from last season. But, Wixted is optimistic about the team’s chances this season.

“I think coach brought in a lot of good players,” said Wixted. “We have a lot of young guys coming in, but we have a really good group again.”

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With so many younger players, Wixted’s on-field leadership abilities will be extremely important early on in the season.

“The strongest part of my game is that I’m a leader on the field,” he said. “I communicate a lot and help my team keep organized out there.”

His ability to keep his team in the right positions on the field and his leadership off the field is something that did not go unnoticed by his teammates from last year.

“Shane is a great teammate,” sophomore midfielder Alejandro Fritz said. “And I feel really confident that he’s gonna be just as good as a leader as he’s been in the past.”

Wixted is now in his final season with Stony Brook. And while he enjoyed last season, he was not pleased with the way the season ended. The Seawolves lost in the semi-finals of the America East tournament by the score of 1-0 to UMBC last November

“It was a disappointing at the end there when we lost in the tournament,” he said. “We’re looking to do better this season for sure.”

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Wixted felt that his game last year was mostly solid, and that he came on stronger in the second half. But, even as a senior he is still working to improve his game.

“I’ve been trying to work on my fitness,” Wixted said. “I am also trying to continue to get better on the ball like always.”

Wixted says he is unsure what he will do after his collegiate career is over, and is more focused on this season rather than the future.

And in his last season as a member of the Seawolves, the ultimate goal for him hasn’t changed. “Winning a championship is always important every year, whether you’re a senior or a freshman.”

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Joe Galotti is a journalism student at Stony Brook University in his senior year. He started writing for The Statesman back in the Fall of 2012, and is now beginning his first year as the paper's Sports Editor. After graduation he hopes to one day be a beat writer in charge of covering a professional sports team.

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