The Stony Brook women’s soccer team is coming off a disappointing 5-10-2 season that saw it miss the America East Tournament and lose its star goalkeeper, Ashley Castanio, to graduation. Despite this, head coach Sue Ryan has refused to lower expectations.
“Our goal is the same every year,” Ryan said in a phone interview with The Statesman. “To put us in a position to win the America East Championship so we can play in NCAA [tournament] matches.”
To accomplish this, Ryan and the program’s new coaching acquisitions — Alex Mendolia and Danny Grimes — will have to address a few of the problems from last year. The primary issue was the team’s offense, which averaged just one goal per game in 2014 and have struggled to put up goals to start the 2015 campaign, scoring just two in their four games.
“We’re still a fairly young team,” Ryan said. “[Senior forward Raven Edwards is] now healthy and I think she’s going to add to our goal output,”
According to the coach, that is not all that will help increase the team’s offensive firepower.
“We have some additional new incoming players who can help add to that,” Ryan said. “Last year’s freshman class getting older and adding some new faces to the crowd that can score goals, between both of those things, hopefully we can get on the scoreboard a little bit more often.”
Edwards along with senior midfielder Tessa Devereaux and senior forward Emily Murrer will likely bear the lion’s share of the offensive responsibilities. Ryan stressed the importance of her upperclassmen after a season plagued by inexperience.
“I think it’s about the upperclassmen,” Ryan said. “I think the tone of the team and the chemistry of the team and the success of the team is really set by the leaders and the upperclassmen.”
Experience is not a hard X’s-and-O’s topic, but Ryan feels it had a real impact and hopes it will be less of an issue this season.
“It’s what I call an intangible,” Ryan said. “You can’t really measure it but it’s there and so the experience of traveling to various schools, what kind of surfaces they play on, the experience of the class schedule at a college level and then training and playing games weekly at the same time. Many athletes are used to only one game a week or they’re used to two training sessions a week and then they come to a collegiate setting and it’s a bit more competitive and their time management is something they really have to work on to be successful. So I think there’s a big transition for younger players and so when you have players who have the experience of managing all those things, I think they have a better opportunity to succeed.”
Women’s soccer went 0-9-1 on the road last season, reflecting the youth issue Ryan spoke about. The squad has ten freshmen on its 28-woman roster this year, as opposed to 13 of its 29 last year.
Offense and youth were not the only problems. Castanio’s graduation leaves the team with a hole to fill at goalkeeper, and it is a toss-up between two potential replacements who split time in the second game of the season.
“Right now it’s between Emily Doherty, who’s a junior transfer and [freshman] Cara Gallagher,” Ryan said. “Those two are going to duke it out and right now there’s no clear choice. It’s still too early in the season to settle on that. There’s absolutely no way to replace a fifth year senior with a person coming in, there’s just no replacement for that level of experience. And I think both goalkeepers realize that they have big shoes to fill and I think both are in a good place to take on that responsibility.”
Goalkeepers will not be the only ones that need to step up. When asked who will surprise this season, Ryan pointed to redshirt junior defender Priscilla Wiggins.
“[She] was injured last year and I think she didn’t have a chance to compete and she has worked very hard over the course of the summer,” Ryan said. “I think she’s going to come back to her original form and it’s going to be a big shot in the arm for our team and I think she’s going to surprise people by how hard she worked and how much she means to the team.”
It will take more than just all this individual talent playing at their best to return to the glory of Stony Brook’s 2012 America East Championship. These pieces will have to mesh, and Ryan believes they are well on their way to working as a cohesive team.
“I’m pleased so far with their ability to work together. I think they are embracing the competitiveness of the team,” Ryan said. “People are fighting for spots but at the same time they’re fighting for each other. I feel like that’s an important factor in what we have to do. I think the upperclassmen are working very hard to bring the new players into the fold of the team and I also feel that newer players are putting themselves out there and asking questions and fitting in with a lot of the returners. So I think all of those are positive steps for our teams and our program.”