Forward Jonas Bickus in action against Hofstra on Sept. 3. Bickus is coming off of a sensational freshman year, and looking to take the next step this year. FRANCESCA MEVS/THE STATESMAN

After winning 2021 America East Rookie of the Year, forward Jonas Bickus is back for a highly anticipated sophomore season with the Stony Brook men’s soccer team.

Bickus is ready to take on a new challenge, as the Stony Brook athletic program has transitioned to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). The conference has already taken notice of Stony Brook’s rising star, as they named Bickus a Preseason All-CAA honorable mention. 

“It’s always good to play against better teams,” Bickus said in an interview with The Statesman. “It helps to improve ourselves and it’s nice to see other schools and travel.” 

Bickus hails from Klaipeda, Lithuania. While living in Europe, he played professionally and has represented his home country several times for the Lithuanian youth team.

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“It is such a nice experience to represent your country and have a chance to play against top teams like France and Belgium and against top players that become stars,” Bickus said. “It’s really fun.” 

Bickus played professionally in both Lithuania and Spain for teams like FK Atlantas, the Levante UD and FK Neptunas. Bickus did not consider himself a professional since he was only a teenager, but felt these experiences were a great benefit to his career and development as a player. 

“I was still young, so I wouldn’t say I was truly a professional,” Bickus said. “It was a great experience. The level is high in both Spain and Lithuania and when you can compete against grown adults. It gives you a lot, as you can see the other side of soccer, not just youth systems. I think it benefited me a lot.”

After some time with FK Neptunas, Bickus then turned his focus to expanding his game by coming to America. Bickus had many options as to where he was going to continue his career in the United States, but ultimately chose Stony Brook because he believed in the program that head coach Ryan Anatol had created. 

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“There were more options than just one but in the end, I chose this place because I believed in it. I liked the coach and the environment.”

The transition to America has been quite easy according to Bickus, who was recruited to the team in April of 2021. Bickus credits his past with his easy adjustment to life in America. Bickus said that the caring nature and friendliness of his teammates have made his transition smooth. 

“I’m used to changing places. The guys we have here are really friendly. They welcomed me and soccer is still the same.”

Bickus’s talents were put on display as soon as he took the field for Stony Brook, as he scored the game-winning goal in his debut in a 1-0 win over LIU last season. Bickus would go on to start all 15 games for the Seawolves, co-leading the team in goals with four. Bickus added another game-winner against the NJIT Highlanders on Oct. 13, 2021. 

During his freshman season, Bickus was honored several times. He was an America East All-Rookie selection and was named the America East Rookie of the Week twice. He was also selected to the Top 100 Freshmen list from TopDrawerSoccer.

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Bickus was pleased with both his individual and team performance last year, but states there is always room for improvement. Bickus credits his hard work for his accolades and hopes to build on them this year. 

“Once I got it I was extremely happy and it just motivated me to do more,” Bickus said.

Bickus’ success has placed higher expectations on him from others, such as Anatol. 

“He’s taken more of a leadership role,” Anatol said. “He’s older, he’s got experience and has a good personality. He’s competitive. So I expect him to do well on the field but expect him to have an even bigger impact in the locker room with how he pushes the guys along with their training.”

Bickus is locked in on the 2022 season. He is off to a hot start, as he scored two goals in Stony Brook’s 4-1 victory over Saint Peter’s on Aug. 29. For the second consecutive year, Bickus scored the first goal of the season for the Seawolves. When it comes to this season, Bickus’ main priorities are to win and be the best teammate he can be. 

“Win every game we step on the field: that’s our goal. We don’t think about yesterday or tomorrow, we just think about the moment and personally just help the team just as much as I can.” 

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Bickus hopes to continue playing professionally after his time at Stony Brook comes to an end. 

“My goal is of course to play professionally,” Bickus said. “I’m a simple person. Where the best conditions are, I will go there.”

A leader on and off the field, Bickus is poised for a stellar sophomore season in the CAA that will see him face fierce competition. Bickus is looking forward to the challenge and is ready for the conference season ahead.

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