Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium will rarely see a quiet moment over the next few months, with five different teams set to occupy the turf in one season. Such is the reality of the Spring 2021 semester, an unprecedented schedule in which both fall and spring sports are holding their seasons at the same time.
Football was the first sport to postpone its fall season in July, when the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) suspended competition. The remainder of Stony Brook’s fall teams, who compete in the America East, followed days later.
The logistics of using the same facility for so many different sports at once presents its own challenges, especially on days such as March 20, when Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium is scheduled to host a 12 p.m. football game versus Maine followed up by a 5 p.m. women’s lacrosse contest against Albany. That’s not including the 1 p.m. women’s soccer game with NJIT the following day.
No spectators have been allowed at Stony Brook athletic events yet in the 2020-2021 academic year, a decision that began with the empty seats inside Island Federal Arena during basketball season and has continued since.
However, Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron recently hinted at the return of fan attendance.
“Our intent is to have fans as soon as possible and will share details once finalized,” he said on Twitter.
Football, the most attended of Stony Brook’s sports, makes its return to the gridiron on March 6 at home against Villanova. The team will play a six-game regular season against other teams in the CAA North division, trying to rebound from losing six of the last seven games of last season and missing the Football Champion Subdivision playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Still led by redshirt-senior quarterback Tyquell Fields, who nearly broke the program single-season passing yards record in 2019, the Stony Brook football team replenished its receiving corps by nabbing Football Bowl Subdivision transfers such as graduate wide receiver Hunter Hayek from Rutgers, redshirt-freshman tight end Tyler Devera from Maryland and redshirt-junior wide receiver Khalil Newton from Ball State.
The Seawolves return 12 starters from last season, including All-Conference names ranging from redshirt-junior offensive lineman Kyle Nunez to redshirt-senior defensive lineman Sam Kamara and redshirt-senior defensive back Augie Contressa.
Defending their title is the most important goal for the Stony Brook women’s soccer team, the reigning America East champions. In Tobias Bischof’s first year as head coach, he led the Seawolves to a program record-tying 14 wins and a trip to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament. Although Stony Brook fell to No. 4 seeded Penn State in the opening round, the team scored a goal in the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
Stony Brook brings back its biggest offensive weapon with graduate forward Alyssa Francese returning. She led the team with 12 goals in 2019 and is currently tied for fourth on the program’s all-time goals list. Sophomore goalkeeper Emerson Richmond-Burke will look to fill the hole left by the graduation of two-time America East Goalkeeper of the Year Sofia Manner, who recorded nine shutouts last season.
On the men’s side, Stony Brook seeks redemption after finishing in last place in the America East in 2019. Winning just one conference match and averaging less than one goal per contest, the team also lost their top scorer Jarred Dass to graduation. Dass was the lone player on the Stony Brook roster who scored more than one goal during the entire 2019 campaign.
In the Seawolves’ season opener at No. 21-ranked St. John’s, the offense came solely from players making their collegiate debuts. Freshman midfielder Trevor Harrison and freshman forward Aki Solvason both put the ball in the back of the net in a 4-2 loss.
The Stony Brook volleyball team is the lone sport this season that calls Pritchard Gymnasium its home. After winning back-to-back America East championships in 2017 and 2018, the Seawolves held a losing record for the first time in head coach Kristin Belzung’s tenure and barely scraped into the conference playoffs, where they lost in the first round.
After the graduation of last season’s top three kill leaders on the team, the current volleyball roster is youth-driven, with only one senior and two juniors. Through the first three matches of 2021, freshman outside hitters Lauren Schmitz and Leoni Kunz lead Stony Brook in kills with 25 and 24, respectively. Senior libero Kiani Kerstetter, the most experienced player on the roster, won America East Defensive Specialist of the Year in 2019.
Having last played together in over a year, the fall sports teams each have something to prove as they make their long-awaited return.