Senior midfielder Trausti Birgisson during a game against LIU on Aug. 26. Birgisson recorded an assist for the third straight match against NJIT on Oct. 13.  JOCELYN CRUZ/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook men’s soccer team picked up a huge three points on Wednesday, Oct. 13 with a 2-1 win in Newark, New Jersey against the NJIT Highlanders. The victory was key for Stony Brook (7-4, 3-2 AE), who have won two in a row and more importantly, are above .500 in conference play again.

Before beating UMBC on Saturday, Stony Brook stood in fifth place in the America East, but the back-to-back wins have moved the Seawolves in a three-way tie for second place with nine points. NJIT (3-8-1, 1-4 AE) fell to last place with the loss.

“I’m again proud of our team’s performance tonight,” head coach Ryan Anatol said in a press release. “It is never easy to win on the road, especially in conference games, but the group has shown a real determination and belief in this road stretch.”

It was a defensive battle between the Seawolves and the Highlanders, but Stony Brook’s offense was particularly efficient in the limited opportunities they had. They continued to shoot the ball with very good accuracy, as 75% of their eight shots were on goal. 

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The usual culprits took Stony Brook’s shots, as graduate midfielder Gabriel Fernandes, freshman forward Jonas Bickus, and sophomore forward Aki Solvason combined for five, with four of them being on goal. However, there was a surprise scorer amongst the group for this match.

After 21:53 of scoreless play, Stony Brook drew first blood on a goal from redshirt freshman defender Iker Alvarado. The goal was the first of Alvarado’s career. It was assisted by senior forward Trausti Birgisson, who extended his team-leading total to five for the season. Birgisson has now dished out an assist in three straight matches, which is the longest such streak by a Seawolf since Stony Brook Athletics started keeping statistical records of the team.

The Seawolves’ 1-0 lead lasted through halftime, but the Highlanders scored the equalizer nine minutes into the second half. Fifth-year senior forward Regsan Watkins scored off of an assist from fellow fifth-year senior forward Rene White. It was the first shot on goal all game from NJIT. The assist for White was his 20th point, giving him the conference lead for points per game (1.82), as well as 102 career points, which leads all active America East men’s soccer players.

With just under 22 minutes left in the second half, Stony Brook took the lead back on a big-time goal from Bickus, who took two shots on the day, both being on goal. This goal was his team-co-leading fourth goal of the season, coming off of a shared assist between Solvason and graduate defender Evan Peters. The goal also marked Bickus’ second game-winning goal of what has been a very solid rookie year thus far.

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The assist for Solvason was his second of the season, which to go along with his four goals, gives him ten total points for this season. That is good for seventh best in the conference, despite missing two games in September.

“I’m very happy for Iker who was able to get his first career goal,” Anatol said. “He’s been very good for us at the back. Jonas again showed how dangerous he can be up front with a great finish.”

The defense was superb for Stony Brook, returning to their suffocating ways of the early-season, as they only allowed ten shots all night, with only two of them being on target. Junior goalkeeper Edmond Kaiser did surrender a goal on the aforementioned first shot on goal, but made up for it with a lead-preserving, fingertip save with 19:03 left on the clock. NJIT moved the ball around very well on that possession, setting up Watkins to attempt the game-tying shot. Watkins sent it on target, up and to the left, but Kaiser used all of his 6’4” frame to leap up and tip it away. It would mark the only save of the night for Kaiser, but one was all he needed to make.

Prior to the start of conference play, Kaiser highlighted NJIT as an opponent he was most excited to play this season.

“Their goalkeeper is from Germany as well,” he said in a September interview with The Statesman. “Last year, we played them in New Jersey and we dominated them 1-0 … We know how to beat that team and I look forward to beating that particular person.”

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Kaiser appeared to be right.

The Seawolves have a favorable home matchup against the UMass Lowell River Hawks (2-9-1, 1-3 AE) on Sunday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. The River Hawks have lost three in a row and are 0-6-1 on the road in the 2021 season, whereas the Seawolves have a 4-2 home record. This should be an easy three points for the Seawolves, but as their Hartford performance showed, nothing in this game is a given.

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