As the clock ran out in the second half, the Stony Brook Women’s Soccer team’s playoff hopes ran out as well, leaving an aura of emptiness that filled Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.
The Seawolves were devastated after their 1-0 season-ending loss against UMBC, eliminating Stony Brook from playoff contention.
“Soccer is a strange game,” Stony Brook head coach Sue Ryan said after the defeat.
Strange is one way to describe it. Brutal would be another. Ryan’s team dominated on paper, leading in shots 21-9 and in corner kicks 13-2. The scoreboard told a different story—the lone tally coming off the foot of Retrievers senior midfielder Amira Walcott.
After a scoreless first half in which the Seawolves played conservatively—only needing a draw to clinch the postseason—madness broke out in the second half.
UMBC came out of the locker room aggressively, needing a win to stay in playoff contention. UMBC freshman defender Katie Berkowitz made a quick, lateral pass across Stony Brook’s penalty box in the 50th minute. Waiting for the pass was Walcott, who tucked the ball behind Seawolves junior goalkeeper Emily Doherty to give her team the lead.
The game’s final 40 minutes were ones of desperation, as Stony Brook’s offense pressed in search of an equalizer. Senior midfielder Tessa Devereaux threw her body around on every ball battle, as she stayed in the game despite suffering two undisclosed injuries that required play to stop.
She dribbled the ball over 40 yards through traffic in the 57th minute before launching the ball into the diving arms of senior goalkeeper Jen Nance, who made eight saves for UMBC in the match.
“We have to be composed with that level of desperation,” Ryan said. “I think our play was a little too erratic because of that desperation to come back and tie the game.”
The Seawolves finally had a golden opportunity in the 60th minute after an errant ball hit the arm of a Retrievers defender in the box, giving redshirt junior forward Raven Edwards a penalty kick opportunity.
Edwards entered the game a perfect 4-for-4 on penalty kicks this season, slotting the ball into the left corner on each opportunity. UMBC was aware of this trend, and Nance telegraphed Edwards’ try, which she kicked to her left again. With a dive and a punchout, Nance denied the chance, the Seawolves’ best to score a goal.
“Absolutely,” Ryan said, when asked if the keeper cheated to Edwards’ left. “I think she jumped early to get that.”
Stony Brook had several scoring chances as time ticked down, but Nance was an uncrackable sentinel in UMBC’s goal. Freshman midfielder Julie Johnstonbaugh headed a corner kick toward the left side of the goal in the 62nd minute, but Nance dove to swat it away. In the 71st minute, Edwards broke through the Retrievers’ defense but her shot was saved as Nance left her feet again.
In the end, it was not to be. Stony Brook missed the America East playoffs, finishing seventh in a conference whose postseason accepts six teams. For the Seawolves’ seniors—Devereaux, Edwards, Danielle Fuller, Emily Murrer and Priscilla Wiggins—the game was likely their last. For Edwards and Wiggins, who have a season of eligibility remaining due to medical redshirts, it has not yet been determined if they will return next season.
For the young players on the Seawolves’ roster, the loss is a learning opportunity.
“They have to learn from this,” Ryan said. “They have to learn to play tough and bring their best every game, regardless of who we are playing and what the situation is.”