With a dominant 2-0 shutout over the Vermont Catamounts, the Stony Brook men’s soccer team opened conference play with a win at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 18.
Vermont, who finished non-conference play at an unbeaten 5-0, narrowly missed out on being ranked in the Division I top 25. The Catamounts received 56 votes, the most for any unranked team, and had yet to surrender a single goal this entire season. Stony Brook, on the other hand, was coming off a 3-1 loss to Rider.
Alas, they do not play games on paper. Stony Brook played their hearts out, with several players having standout performances en route to their upset. Junior goalkeeper Edmond Kaiser posted his third clean sheet of the year, racking up seven saves. Vermont’s passing game was active as they moved the ball downfield a ton and were able to attempt 17 shots. Stony Brook’s defense, stingy as ever, repeatedly forced errant shots and blocked some more to hold Vermont 0-for-17 overall.
“I thought he did his job,” head coach Ryan Anatol said encouragingly about Kaiser’s performance in an interview with The Statesman. “Everything that was in front of him, he handled well. It was a good overall performance.”
Stony Brook scored their two goals through their two young forwards, sophomore Aki Solvason and freshman Jonas Bickus. Solvason got the scoring started after hitting a shot with 8:06 left in the first half, coming off the end of a long assist by graduate midfielder Gabriel Fernandes. Solvason, in a one-on-two matchup, was able to maintain his dribble, shake both defenders loose, and score on Vermont graduate goalkeeper Nate Silveira.
“The ball came in over my head,” Solvason said in an interview with The Statesman. “I just turned around, took a blind shot and tried getting it on target.”
Solvason mentioned last week to The Statesman that it excited him to play Vermont with national pride on the line, knowing several fellow Icelandic players who have played for the Catamounts in the past and present. Of all the players from his hometown who played in the United States, Solvason was the only one who did not go to Vermont.
“I’m very happy,” he said on Saturday. “I can go back to Iceland and brag about this forever.”
Bickus scored his goal relatively early in the second half, coming off of a shared assist by Solvason and graduate midfielder Kori Cupid. Bickus credited his work ethic and chemistry with teammates for his goal.
“I think consistent work, hard work in the practices and getting chemistry with the team are the reasons,” he said in an interview with The Statesman. “Coach always says that if you want to be a professional player, you have to do that.
Bickus has come up big this year for Stony Brook. He notably scored the game-winning goal in his Stony Brook debut and the tying goal against Fairfield. Now, he can add a goal in his first conference match to the collection of milestones he has already reached.
“I go into every game like it’s my last game, and I just try to do my best and give 100% on the field,” Bickus said.
Regarding their opponent, Anatol also spoke about what they focused on entering their matchup with Vermont.
“We try not to focus too much on the opponent,” he said. “We’re trying to focus on ourselves and to do what we want to do. We want to have our best performance. We know that we are good enough that if we are able to do that, we put ourselves in positions to win games.”
Despite an aggressive 11 shots taken in the second half, Vermont simply could manufacture nothing on the scoreboard. The Catamounts were also able to get seven corner kicks while Stony Brook had none. Still, they could not capitalize.
Cupid appeared to be banged up during the game, leaving with an injury before returning. He was still in visible amounts of pain afterward as he was seen wincing and grabbing. Anatol commended Cupid for his toughness, as well as for his continued high level of play.
“Kori’s a warrior,” Anatol said. “I thought he was fantastic tonight on both sides of the ball. He’s been really good and consistent all season long. So I’m sure he can get some rest and be ready to go in the next one.”
The next one will be on Saturday, Sept. 25 when the Seawolves (5-2, 1-0 AE) travel north to take on the Binghamton Bearcats (5-2, 0-0 AE). Stony Brook will look to start another winning streak and remain unbeaten in conference play.