Disappointment has become far too familiar for Stony Brook’s fall sports teams, as the Seawolves have now gone three consecutive years without a conference title in the academic year’s first season. On the field, on the pitch and on the court, the suffering seemed to come from nearly every direction imaginable.
For the football team, the season opened with a 2-0 record and a dominating win over the defending Colonial Athletic Association champion and then-No. 13 New Hampshire Wildcats. It was a statement victory for the Seawolves, a 31-6 blowout in front of a raucous home crowd at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. The victory raised expectations on the gridiron to the highest level since the team joined the CAA in 2013.
From there, the season for head coach Chuck Priore’s team derailed. Junior running back Stacey Bedell suffered a shoulder injury in a Week 4 loss against William & Mary, devastating the team’s ability to score. Stony Brook lost five games in a row, riddled by injuries and a suffering offense, to fall to 2-5 and fall out of contention for a potential Football Championship Subdivision playoff spot after a promising start to the year.
With senior defensive lineman Victor Ochi and junior defensive lineman Aaron Thompson wreaking havoc for the Seawolves, Stony Brook finished the regular season first in the FCS in total defense and second in the FCS in team sacks. Although the team finished at 5-5 after winning its final three games, one cannot help but wonder what the season could have looked like if the Seawolves’ vaunted defense was complemented by an equally-dominant offense.
For the men’s soccer team, sophomore forward Vince Erdei and senior midfielder Martin Giordano combined for 15 goals on the year, creating one of the America East Conference’s most potent attacks. On Oct. 28, the team went on the road to topple the then-No. 17 Hofstra Pride 3-0, notching the highest-ranking victory in program history. At home, the squad had a flair for the dramatic, as Erdei netted overtime winners against Marist and Binghamton, while fellow sophomore forward Thibault Duval booted a double-overtime goal against Albany. Stony Brook heroism quickly seemed to become the norm at men’s soccer games at LaValle Stadium.
In the America East quarterfinals, the switch was cruelly flipped on the Seawolves. After Stony Brook took a 2-0 lead against Binghamton with just 18 minutes remaining, the Bearcats scored twice in regulation to tie the match. When Binghamton drilled in a double-overtime golden goal, the Stony Brook players held their heads in disbelief, having been victimized by an unimaginable comeback to spoil their season.
For the women’s soccer team, redshirt junior forward Raven Edwards took the America East by storm, ranking second in the conference with nine goals, including eight in an eight-match span. On Oct. 11, Stony Brook bested the defending champion New Hampshire, 3-2, at home with Edwards scoring the game-winning penalty-kick goal with three minutes remaining in regulation.
Entering the final game of the regular season, a home match against UMBC, Stony Brook needed just a draw to qualify for the playoffs. The Seawolves had not lost in eight consecutive LaValle Stadium games entering the matchup, but the unbeaten streak was snapped in a brutal and untimely way. Despite leading the 21-9 in shot attempts, the Seawolves lost the match, 1-0, missing the playoffs by a single point. Head coach Sue Ryan was relieved of her coaching duties a few days later.
For the women’s volleyball team, senior outside hitter Kathy Fletcher and freshman middle blocker McKyla Brooks were dynamic for Stony Brook offensively, with Fletcher leading the America East with 400 kills and Brooks leading all freshmen in the conference in attack percentage. The Seawolves set an all-time program record for attack efficiency against Delaware State on Oct. 23 when they hit .556 as a team. With four seniors as major contributors in the team’s rotation, Stony Brook seemed poised to make noise in the conference tournament.
But when the team’s playoff match came, Stony Brook played perhaps its most underwhelming conference match of the season against its rival Albany in the America East semifinals, getting beaten in straight-sets after playing two highly-competitive matches against the Great Danes during the regular season.
The brightest spot for the Seawolves’ discouraging fall season came from the cross country team, where junior Christina Melian ran away from her peers. She claimed the women’s individual title with a blistering 17:53.24 run at the Stony Brook-hosted America East Championship 5K on Oct. 31. The Staten Islander represented Stony Brook at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 21 and now moves to the winter season, where she seeks to defend her indoor track All-America status earned last March.
Across the board, however, disappointment continued to haunt the Seawolves’ fall sports teams for yet another year. The Stony Brook fall seasons again ended in agony. In 2016, the teams will once again set out to win the fall conference title that has eluded the school since 2012.