In the 33rd minute of the first Stony Brook Women’s Soccer match of the season, Seawolves junior forward Julie Johnstonbaugh took a pass from a teammate off her chest just across midfield. She spun to her left and dribbled slowly before bursting downfield, splitting three Northeastern defenders with footwork that left one Huskie on the turf.
A fourth defender raced over to recover, but Johnstonbaugh planted just outside the penalty box and launched the ball with her left foot – into the arms of diving Northeastern junior goalkeeper Nathalie Nidetch.
“That was an elite move by Johnstonbaugh,” Northeastern announcer Patrick McHugh said. “Really the best chance for Stony Brook.”
Johnstonbaugh’s shot attempt was one of only four shots on goal Stony Brook had in Friday’s match and was perhaps the closest the team would come to evening the score. The Huskies defeated the visiting Seawolves 1-0 off a free kick by Northeastern sophomore midfielder Lizzie George, headed in by junior defender Eve Goulet in the 21st minute.
“We need to be a little bit better in our attacking third,” Stony Brook head coach Brendan Faherty said after the game. “We could’ve been a little bit more disciplined with the ball and try and create better chances.”
It was not for a lack of trying. The Seawolves played aggressively on both ends, searching for a big play that ultimately never materialized. Northeastern’s managed offense overcame Stony Brook’s faster tempo, particularly when a steady rain began in the second half. The slicker conditions caused numerous collisions and falls on both sides, but the Huskies had the lead and the Seawolves’ rapid pace of play became chaotic as players struggled to keep their footing.
Johnstonbaugh finished with three shots on goal and junior forward Jordyn Klapper had one.
“Obviously [Northeastern] won the CAA last year. They’re picked to win it again,” Faherty said. “They have some good attacking players. For the most part, I thought we did a good job defending them.”
Freshman goalkeeper Sofia Manner, who traveled to Stony Brook from Helsinki, Finland, emerged as a dominant force for the Seawolves. Her intensity as an athlete and a field commander was on display, barking directions to upperclassmen defenders and coming out of goal with a surprising frequency to make dramatic defensive stops.
“Sofia is a quick goalkeeper so she’s quick off her line. She can move really well,” Faherty said, supportive of the freshman’s style. “That’s how she plays goalkeeper and I don’t have an issue with it. If I had an issue with it she wouldn’t play.”
Manner started over senior Shannon Robinson and junior Cara Gallagher, who split time in goal last season. The 5-foot 10-inch freshman was quick to show why, logging six saves and disrupting the Northeastern offense with her speed and physicality.
Faced with eight shots on goal, Manner held the Huskies to one goal at home in her first collegiate game.
The game’s sole goal came halfway through the first period. A corner kick from Lizzie George appeared to go too far past the scrum in front of the Seawolves’ goal, but Goulet connected on a header. She drove the ball into the ground and bounced it over the heads of Manner and the other Stony Brook defenders. The goal was the second of George’s career.
Northeastern goalkeeper Nidetch had her own acrobatic moves to show off the few times the ball came her way. A Johnstonbaugh shot with 23 minutes left in the match had an arc from outside the penalty box which appeared to be accurate, splitting two defenders. However, Nidetch leaped into the air and deflected the ball over the crossbar with her fingertips.
“I think we’re a team that’s still finding themselves,” Faherty said, noting it was only one game. “We get to play again on Sunday which is great to have a quick turnaround and play again. An opportunity for Julie and other players to step up in the attacking third.”
The Seawolves return home to Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium for their home opener on Sunday against Iona. The Gaels lost on Friday 1-0 to Army in West Point. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m.