The Stony Brook women’s soccer team has demonstrated success with a young lineup as the season has kicked off. But with a mix of many freshman newcomers paired with upperclassmen in the starting lineup, it will take time for the group to grow together as the team’s leading scorers last season, forwards Amy Thompson and Raven Edwards, have graduated.
“I think one of the greatest strengths of this year’s team is our chemistry,” the team’s head coach Brendan Faherty said. “I believe we have a really balanced team and we have depth at every position.”
The Seawolves showed the strength of their chemistry in the team’s game against Iona College on Aug. 20 as freshman forward Rachel Florenz scored her first two goals of the season. As the freshmen step up early in the season, the upperclassmen are trying to intensify their gameplay as well. Stony Brook junior forward Julie Johnstonbaugh and senior midfielder Christen Cahill are veteran players who will be instrumental to the team’s offensive success this season.
“This depth is making our practices more competitive, which in turn helps our players feel more confident heading into each game,” Faherty said. “Through our first four games, we have had 19 different players that have started a game.”
Florenz has scored three times so far in her collegiate career, earning America East Rookie of the Week honors the first two weeks of the season. Freshman midfielder Chelsie DePonte, junior defender Kaitlin Loughren and Johnstonbaugh have scored once each.
Loughren, senior defender Sydney Vaughn and junior forward Jordyn Klapper anchor the defense with 127 college starts between the three of them. All three are the only Seawolves to start all six games so far this season. Loughren was named to the All-America East Second Team in 2016.
“We have a good balance of older players mixed with newcomers,” Faherty said. “But they have spent a lot of time together since Aug. 1 off the field, which I believe has helped them find more success on the field.”
Stony Brook’s greatest challenges this season come in the form of its offensive and defensive plays inside the penalty areas. Possession during the game determines which team can create an opportunity and Faherty has stressed the importance of controlling the ball.
“I think our group feels really good about our play in the middle third of the field,” Faherty said. “From an attacking and defending standpoint, we are trying to get better in both 18’s.”
The Seawolves struggled against Boston College on Aug. 31 while attempting to fix this problem. Similarly, the team faced the same issue in the Aug. 27 game against Dartmouth, but managed to keep the Big Green’s lead small.
“We can be more dangerous and creative in front of goal while also being more organized defensively to limit our opponent’s opportunities,” Faherty said.
Faherty is entering his second season as a head coach and can really begin to shape the program thanks to 16 underclassmen on the team, including numerous key contributors like Florenz and freshman goalkeeper Sofia Manner.
Manner hails from Helsinki, Finland and has immediately proven herself as a strong presence on the field. She has played the entirety of five of the first six games this season, starting over junior Cara Gallagher and senior Shannon Robinson. In 2016, Gallagher started in 14 games and Robinson started in six.
Player to Watch
Florenz is the girl on fire, scoring her first three collegiate goals in the first three games of the season. She scored two goals against Iona on Aug. 20 and another in the next game against UMass on Aug. 25. With her performance so far, Florenz has thrust herself into the spotlight at the beginning of the season.
She may be a newcomer, but Florenz is also a major contributor to goal scoring in a new environment that is separate from her high school career. Coach Faherty has expressed high hopes for his team this year, and Florenz’s transition onto the team at least should intrigue those who watch her as the season progresses.
Playing for at least half the amount of time for a full game, Florenz has quickly built her stats this season as an offensive player. Her average shot rate stands at 0.5 percent and her average percentage of shots on goals is even higher at 0.67 percent. The number of goals she has made for the team cannot be matched by the stats of Johnstonbaugh and DePonte put together.
None of the veteran players on the team had stats like Florenz as a freshman, and at least for now, she has been unmatched this season. Whatever success she will have in the future is yet to be seen, but her achievements may serve as a foreshadowing.
Florenz will continue to improve to be an even greater offensive player for the Seawolves with each new game. The Seawolves will play their next game at Columbia on Friday at 6 p.m..
Joseph Konig contributed writing to this story.