There is a tomorrow after all.
The Stony Brook men’s soccer team clinched a playoff berth on the last day of the regular season with a 1-0 home victory on Monday, Nov. 1 against the Albany Great Danes. Shortly after, the No. 6-ranked team in the country, the New Hampshire Wildcats, completed its 1-0 defeat of the UMass Lowell River Hawks to grant the Seawolves the fourth seed and a home quarterfinal match.
The Seawolves (8-6, 4-4 AE) ended the conference season with 12 points. The opposing Great Danes (10-6-1, 4-3-1 AE) finished in third place with 13, but Stony Brook’s win and UMass Lowell’s loss allowed the Seawolves to leapfrog the River Hawks in the standings after losing to them at home in the head-to-head tiebreaker. UMass Lowell finished in seventh place with 9 points and missed the six-team postseason.
Few people predicted that Stony Brook would host a home playoff game this season. The Seawolves were picked to finish eighth in the conference.
“I told the guys in the tunnel, ‘Today is not our last game,’” graduate midfielder Gabriel Fernandes, one of the team’s captains, said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “It feels amazing extending the journey.”
Fernandes and his graduating teammates were honored in a pregame ceremony for Senior Night, as they all got enormous, framed images of themselves in action over the years, with family members accompanying some of them on the field.
Needing to rise to the occasion, the Seawolves found paydirt early with freshman midfielder Bas Beckhoven scoring his first career goal in the ninth minute, off an assist from sophomore forward Sean Towey.
“I like to do good for my team,” Beckhoven said after the game in an interview with The Statesman. “I like to make an impact and work hard, so it’s nice to see results.”
It was the second earliest goal Stony Brook had scored all season after sophomore forward Aki Solvason’s goal in the fourth minute against Drexel.
For the rest of the first half, Stony Brook’s offense controlled the flow of the game by winning the possession battle. Six minutes later, Fernandes made a bid to tack on to their lead but was denied on a nice save by Albany senior goalkeeper Carlos Tofern. Stony Brook outshot Albany 6-2 in the first 45 as the defense clogged up Albany’s offense whenever it neared the box.
After the half, it was a defensive battle for the Seawolves, who remained strong despite the offense’s struggles. They lost the second-half possession battle, finding themselves defending more than they would probably like to.
Freshman forward Jonas Bickus, the team’s co-leader in goals, had an injury scare when he went to the ground holding his head in clear pain. The second time he went down, he was subbed out but returned after it was determined the injury was only a minor cut that led to blood getting on his jersey.
The defense manned its ground, holding Albany scoreless on four shots in the second half with only one on goal. Junior goalkeeper Edmond Kaiser had a peaceful night with the help of his defense, only having to record two saves en route to completing his fourth clean sheet of the season.
“I thought it was a good performance,” head coach Ryan Anatol said postgame. “It was nice to get a clean sheet, I thought the guys played and defended well, and we scored a nice goal. So overall I’m pretty happy.”
The Seawolves’ win not only clinched a playoff berth, but it also secured a .500 finish in conference play and also their first winning season since 2018. Stony Brook’s playoff hopes were uncertain after the team had dropped its last two matches.
“I think the first thing it shows you is that we have a tough league,” Anatol said. “You can’t guarantee anything; no scores can be predicted. At the end of the day, to finish 4-4 and finish in the top four in your league is a good way to end it.”
Stony Brook hosts the fifth-seed UMBC Retrievers (8-7-2, 3-4-1 AE) in the America East quarterfinals on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 4 p.m. The winner will have the tallest task ahead of them, with nationally top-6 ranked New Hampshire in the semifinals next.