The Stony Brook men’s soccer team whiffed on a huge opportunity on the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 17 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, dropping a very favorable home match 3-1 to the badly struggling UMass Lowell River Hawks.
The Seawolves (7-5, 3-3 AE) had won two straight road games whereas the hapless River Hawks (3-9-1, 2-3 AE) entered with a winless 0-6-1 road record. All Stony Brook had to do to claim sole possession of second place in the America East was defeat a struggling opponent, but as the team showed on Sunday, nothing is a given in sports.
There was a familiar face on the other end for Stony Brook, as this match marked UMass Lowell senior goalkeeper Christian Miesch’s return to LaValle Stadium. It was a bittersweet homecoming for Miesch, who started his career as Stony Brook’s goalie and won America East Rookie of the Year in 2018 before transferring after one season to Syracuse, where he made 21 starts. Miesch spent two seasons with the Orange and then returned to the America East, where he got the best of his former team.
The match started nightmarishly for the Seawolves, as only six minutes and 41 seconds in, the River Hawks drew first blood with a nice-looking goal from graduate midfielder Daniel Orrego, his first of the season.
“I don’t think we defended well,” head coach Ryan Anatol said in a postgame press conference. “I thought our individual defending was poor… When you defend like that, you can’t win games. The key to winning games is defending well, and we didn’t do that today.”
The early goal tipped the momentum in very unbalanced fashion. UMass Lowell never looked back and controlled the flow of the match. Stony Brook was dominated in the possession battle, barely having the ball in its hands throughout the day. The River Hawks’ offensive input was double Stony Brook’s in both halves, with the Seawolves attempting two shots in the first half and three in the second, while the River Hawks took four and six, respectively. Stony Brook finished the afternoon with only five shots, two on goal. Meanwhile, half of UMass Lowell’s 10 shots were on goal.
“When you give up a goal so early in the game, it changes the momentum,” Anatol said. “You come in with a plan of things that you want to do, and you give up a goal early, so obviously they get a little bit of life from that… We just gave them too many opportunities to play. They definitely came in with a change in game plan… We didn’t work hard enough to prevent that.”
Within five minutes of the second half, UMass Lowell tallied a second goal from sophomore forward Reziq Banihani to extend their lead before the break. Junior goalkeeper Edmond Kaiser was visibly frustrated with his defense, as he clapped his hands in frustration and was seen instructing several defenders on the back end after the play. Of the four shots UMass Lowell took in the first half, three of them were on goal.
Whatever halftime adjustments Stony Brook attempted did not work, as UMass Lowell tacked on a third goal just 10:02 into the second half. Freshman forward Kai McLoughlin scored his first career goal off of an assist from Banihani to make it 3-0. Stony Brook had once rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the second half this year at Drexel, but once McLoughlin’s shot hit the back of the net, the writing was on the wall for the Seawolves.
The final 34:58 of the game was all garbage time. Stony Brook did a better job in the second half in regards to maintaining possession, but it was all relative. They finished the match rather strong, putting a lot of pressure on the River Hawks’ defense inside of the final 10 minutes. Set up by a UMass Lowell yellow card, sophomore midfielder Trevor Harrison sent a free kick into the box, where graduate midfielder Kori Cupid tapped in his third goal of the season. It was also Harrison’s second assist of the season as Cupid reached seven points on the season, third-most on the team. That score spoiled a potential clean sheet for Miesch as Stony Brook avoided its third shutout loss of the year.
Parallels can be drawn between Stony Brook’s performance against UMass Lowell and the team’s earlier loss to Hartford. The Seawolves were hosting a weak opponent in what looked to be an easy victory, before coming out flat both times and trailing 3-0 before scoring a late, meaningless goal to salvage the score.
Still, Stony Brook is not done. The Seawolves are still above .500 overall and have nine points in a competitive conference, in position to host a playoff game. With the loss, they fell to fourth place in the conference. After starting 5-2 and opening conference play with a dominant showing against Vermont, though, expectations were higher.
The Seawolves planned to get a break from conference foes on Wednesday, Oct. 20 against an Ivy League opponent, the Yale Bulldogs for their fourth match in 11 days. However, the match was canceled on Tuesday, Oct. 19 for undisclosed reasons and will not be made up.
“We have a little bit of time between the next conference game, so we’ve just got to come out and get better,” Anatol said.