Stony Brook Women’s Soccer lost 7-0 to Penn State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at Jeffrey Field in State College, Pennsylvania. The loss knocks the Seawolves out of the tournament and marks the end of their 2017 season.
“I think when the draw was made we knew it was going to be a tough match-up for us,” head coach Brendan Faherty said. “Penn State is one of the top soccer programs in the country. They’re a dynamic attacking group, really good movement off the ball, scored some really good goals against us.”
The No. 3-seeded Nittany Lions found the back of the net just over 10 minutes into the match, when sophomore midfielder/forward Laura Freigang scored the first goal of the contest off a corner kick from junior midfielder Marissa Sheva.
“I thought we were organized pretty well, but we gave up the first goal on a corner kick,” Faherty said. “I think when you give up a goal in that type of game, that type of situation, it’s hard. Penn State’s played in a lot more NCAA Tournament games than we have, and they rose to the moment.”
Freigang picked up a hat-trick before the first half was finished and ended the match with four goals. Penn State tallied 29 shots on the night, while Stony Brook managed three.
While the Seawolves’ seven-goal deficit in the match was their largest since they entered Division I in 1999, this year’s team also led the program to just its second ever NCAA Tournament appearance. After the game, Faherty praised his team’s persistence in the face of superior competition.
“I think our group really battled hard and played for the full 90 minutes,” Faherty said. “I’m happy about that.”
Despite the loss, Faherty directed his team’s attention to their achievements this season. Stony Brook’s 11 wins were the most the program has had since 2013. Although the team finished the regular season with an 8-10 overall record, they still managed to advance as far as any Stony Brook Women’s Soccer squad ever has, picking up just the second America East title in program history.
“We went into the locker room and we talked briefly about the game, but the real focus was on what we accomplished this year,” Faherty said. “I told the group ‘I want you guys to feel great about what you brought to Stony Brook for the last few months.’ I think everyone realized that we had a really great fall and we have a lot of great memories to look back on.”
Stony Brook went 2-6 in their first eight matches of the season, including a five-game losing streak that lasted from Aug. 27 to Sept. 17. The team went 9-5 from that point on, and Faherty pointed to their streak-snapping 6-0 win against Wagner on Sept. 17 as the beginning of their turnaround.
“We scored 10 goals [combined] in back-to-back games against Wagner and Sacred Heart, so I think that gave our group some confidence,” Faherty said. “And then when we went to Hartford and won, which has only been done a couple times in program history. I think that gave us more confidence. And then to beat New Hampshire at home, who finished in first place, I think that gave us more confidence.”
Six seniors played their last minutes in a Stony Brook uniform on Friday, including defensive stalwarts Franki Priore and Sydney Vaughn and midfielder Samantha Goodwin, who finished third on the team with eight points this season. While the Seawolves’ freshmen often found themselves in prominent positions this fall, Faherty says their success should be partially credited to the environment the team’s upperclassmen helped create.
“The thing that helped our group so much this year was that our seniors were really welcoming of our younger kids, and that says a lot about them as people,” Faherty said. “I think that allowed some of our younger kids to really step up and have the seasons that they had.”
While the end of a long season is a bittersweet moment for any team, Faherty and his squad will take time to reflect on the year before looking forward to what they can accomplish in 2018.
“Right now, it’s so fresh that we want to focus on kind of celebrating this year and really reflecting on everything we did well,” Faherty said. “As we look towards the future, we have a lot of talented players returning, I do think we’re going to bring in another really good recruiting class. But we’re going to miss some great leaders, and we’re going to have to have some new players step up into those roles. I’m really excited for the off-season.”