Stony Brook women’s soccer team celebrating a win in Nov. 2019. The team won in a game against Vermont which advanced them to the America East championship game. SARA RUBERG/STATESMAN FILE

Frustration was in the air. Despite dominating in nearly every metric, the Stony Brook women’s soccer team remained scoreless through the first 72 minutes of the America East semifinal match on Friday, April 15 against the Vermont Catamounts. The Seawolves definitively controlled the ball and were the more aggressive of the two teams, yet found themselves on the brink of elimination.

The offense finally broke through after being denied during the first half, scoring three goals in the final 18 minutes to stave off Vermont’s upset bid. The 3-1 victory advanced Stony Brook to its third America East championship game in four seasons.

“The feeling of seeing the ball go into the goal was such a relief and helped pump up the team to be able to score two more goals,” freshman back Kerry Pearson said in a press release. “We had the momentum the whole game. It was just amazing for our hard work and chances to convert into the win.”

Stony Brook was on the attack for the entire match, outnumbering Vermont 37-9 in shots and 20-4 in shots on goal, but somehow could not get the ball into the net. Catamounts junior goalkeeper Lydia Kessel recorded 17 saves, with each successive one more maddening than the last. Vermont still held a 1-0 lead due to a goal scored 52 seconds in by sophomore midfielder Frances O’Donnell.

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UMass Lowell, the America East regular season champions and postseason host, was upset 1-0 by Binghamton earlier in the day. It appeared as if a second stunner could be on its way.

On the Seawolves’ 29th shot attempt of the night, Pearson finally converted the equalizer from the top of the box. Less than two minutes later, graduate forward Alyssa Francese put Stony Brook up with a close-range goal that bounced in front of her before she kicked it past the keeper. The Seawolves’ advantage in physicality ultimately won out as they converted late opportunities, having missed many earlier ones.

“As the game went on, I just felt one was going to go our way,” Francese said. “Kerry was able to get us level and give us that little bit of extra energy and momentum. To go ahead, the ball came across and I was able to get a head on it on frame and have it deflected right back to me to put it in.”

In the 88th minute, junior forward Tatum Kauka sunk the dagger with her first goal since 2018. Stony Brook had prevented Vermont from tying it up after the Catamounts were consistently on the offensive for the first time in the match, responding with the sealing score on the other end.

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“We never dropped off, even after their early goal and we kept fighting the full 90,” Francese, who scored her team-leading sixth goal of the season, said. “It paid off.”

Vermont, owning a 1-4-1 record, only qualified for the postseason because New Hampshire, the second-place finisher in America East’s Division A, was unavailable to play as a result of COVID-19 protocol.

“It was a fantastic job by the players,” head coach Tobias Bischof said. “We took 37 shots. Our energy was awesome.”

Stony Brook will face Binghamton in the America East championship game on Saturday, April 17 at 4 p.m., seeking to repeat as champions after the Seawolves defeated Hartford in 2019. The Bearcats have not appeared in the title game since 2009 and have not won the title since 2004. On the other hand, a Stony Brook win would secure the program’s fourth America East championship and NCAA Tournament appearance.

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