The No. 5-seeded Stony Brook women’s soccer team traveled to Hartford to take on the No. 4-seeded Hawks in the first round of the America East Conference championships, putting on a 90-minute display of dominance en route to shutting out the Hawks 2-0 Thursday evening.
Junior defender Allyson Baner and senior midfielder Christen Cahill both found the back of the net to help the Seawolves advance to the America East Tournament Semifinals after the team was eliminated in the first round last season. The win was head coach Brendan Faherty’s 100th as a head coach.
“I thought we came out with a lot of energy tonight,” Faherty said. “I think we were all disappointed with how the last week of the regular season went. The big talk for us was that we wanted to go out there and play better because of how the last week of the regular season played out.”
After being shut out by both Albany and Vermont in Stony Brook’s final two regular season games, Baner scored to put the Seawolves on the scoreboard first. The junior was able to rise above the mass of athletes in the Hartford box and head home a corner kick from senior midfielder Samantha Goodwin in the 11th minute to give Stony Brook an early 1-0 lead.
The Seawolves played the role of the aggressor in the first half, outshooting the Hawks 10-3 and holding a 6-1 advantage in corner kicks. The team rarely allowed the Hawks to have any good opportunities, a point Faherty commended after the game.
“I thought we were pretty dangerous right from that first whistle,” Faherty said. “We were going forward and creating chances in the run of play, while also creating chances on corner kicks. [Baner’s] header off the corner kick really set the tone for the rest of the game. I thought the first half was the best half we played all season, so I was really happy for our team.”
Hartford came out quicker than Stony Brook in the second half, but the Hawks were unable to create opportunities for themselves. The team remained composed and stuck to its game plan, and eventually found the back of the net once again.
Cahill scored the Seawolves’ second goal, her first this season, when freshman midfielder Chelsie DePonte found her on a toe poke of a pass in the Hawks’ box. The senior placed the ball in the lower left corner and past the outstretched hand of Hartford’s freshman goalkeeper, Maia Perez, in the 74th minute.
Recently awarded America East Rookie of the Year, freshman goalkeeper Sofia Manner made four saves, earning her first career playoff victory and fourth shutout of the season. Manner was pivotal in keeping Hartford from scoring late in the game, making two difficult saves on close range shots from the Hawks in the 79th minute to hold the game at 2-0.
The game was the first experience of America East playoffs for the team’s 12 freshmen. Faherty praised the young core for their performance, but also credited the upperclassmen for helping the freshmen refocus after losing the final two games of the season.
“Even though we lost that game, I think we learned from it because we might have overlooked Vermont, and I think we understand that the playoffs are a completely different game,” Faherty said. “While the freshmen have had a good season, but for me, it’s all about that upperclassmen and the leadership they bring to the table.”
The team will have a few days before hitting the road once again. They will take on the No. 1-seeded New Hampshire Wildcats at Bremner Field on Sunday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. in the America East Conference semifinals. The winner will advance to the America East championship game and play the winner of No. 6-seeded Vermont and No. 2-seeded Binghamton.