A group of players celebrate a goal for the Stony Brook women’s soccer team in the game against Providence on Sept. 4. The Seawolves are currently in the non-conference part of the schedule, and they are off to a respectable start. KAYLA GOMEZ MOLANO/THE STATESMAN

After winning back-to-back America East tournaments in 2019 and 2020, the 2021 Stony Brook women’s soccer team was predicted to defend its title for a third straight year. Not only did they fail to do so, but they missed the playoffs and finished below .500 overall. 

At 7-8-2, the Seawolves averaged less than a goal per game — and then graduated their two leading scorers. Soon after their disappointing 2021 season ended, Stony Brook moved athletic conferences, joining the more competitive Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Given all of this, expectations are not high for the 2022 Seawolves.

But don’t tell them that. After being projected to finish in 10th place out of 12 teams, the Seawolves have already begun their surprise season. Currently sitting at 3-2, this Seawolves team is night-and-day from last year’s team. They have gone from averaging less than a goal per game to 2.4 goals per game, while also getting significantly younger at every position. 

“It’s hard to say what the biggest difference is,” head coach Tobias Bischof said in an interview with The Statesman. “I think we put the weight on a lot of different shoulders, and to be honest, a lot of different shoulders are carrying the weight.”

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The offense has been a main storyline of this team so far. Not only have they done a good job at scoring, but they have also spread the wealth at a high rate. The team had eight different players score their 12 total goals so far this season. 

“I think we are more confident this year,” Bischof said. “I think we move the ball a little bit quicker, our positioning is a little bit better on the field. But it really comes down to confidence.”

There are several key pieces in that high-flying offense for Stony Brook, and seemingly all of them are new players. Of the 12 goals Stony Brook’s offense has scored, 11 of them have been by first-year Seawolves. 

Currently leading the pack is forward Reilly Rich, a JUCO transfer now in her junior year. She leads the team in almost every offensive statistic, namely goals, assists, points, shots and shots on goal. Alongside her are two freshmen who have started every game: forward Hannah Maracina and midfielder Linn Beck. Both freshmen have scored two goals and recorded one assist each.

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“I’ve been able to do my part and do exactly what I’m there to do,” Maracina said. “I’m there to score, I’m there to help the team get opportunities.”

Five different freshmen have combined to score eight goals. Along with Beck and Maracina, forward Luciana Setteducate, midfielder Jadyn Lui and defender Sammy Hanwacker have all found the scoreboard early in their first year. 

“That’s pretty impressive, to be honest,” Bischof said. “It’s really cool.”

They may have a budding star in midfielder Gabby Daniels, who started 16 games as a freshman in 2021. Daniels is known for her defensive prowess but is expected to be more involved on the offensive side of the ball as well. 

“She’s a little bit more of a ‘destroyer’ kind of player,” Bischof said. “We’re trying to add into her game to also be more of a ‘playing’ kind of player. So not just concentrate on the defensive game, where she is very good in, but also be more involved in the offensive game. We want her more involved in our buildup and our overall play, not just destroying the play of the other team.”

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However, they have some more experienced players who are valuable too. Defender Catharina von Drigalski is a senior who not only plays good defense but was second on the team in shots on goal last year. Defender/midfielder Kerry Pearson started every game last year, was third on the team in points and has started every game so far in 2022. Defender Emma Beattie also started every game last year and was tied with Pearson in scoring, but she has not played yet this year. 

Stony Brook also added aggressive defender Morayo Adenegan through the transfer portal this offseason, and she has been a regular starter for the team.

The Seawolves also boast a revolving door of four different goalkeepers that Bischof is impressed with. Emerson Richmond Burke is the oldest of the group and was their main starter last year. Nicolette Pasquarella is a sophomore who has gotten some playing time, while Jordan Wolf and Ava King are two freshmen who have dazzled so far. All of them have played in multiple games and they have typically been rotating by the half. Bischof has not named an official starter, nor does he plan to yet.

“We are in a good spot that we have four goalkeepers who are all capable of playing for us,” Bischof said. “We’ll see what we do with it for the rest of the year.”

Through the first five games, the Seawolves are averaging 14 shots per game and converting on over 17 percent of them, more than double last year’s team did during last year (8.1%). They are also shooting 55.7% on goal, which is over 10% higher from last year’s team. They have moved the ball extremely well, racking up 10 total assists on their 12 goals. If the offense can continue to perform close to this level, they will be able to compete this year in the CAA.

But, from a statistical standpoint, the Seawolves’ defense has been as bad as their offense has been good. Opponents are averaging 14.2 shots against them per game, while shooting 54.9% on goal. They have allowed an average of two goals per game. The numbers are heavily deflated by their recent loss to Cincinnati, as they allowed five goals on 22 shots (11 on goal). Deflated or not, those numbers will not be good enough to win in the CAA.

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With exciting young players, a fully-functioning offense and good team morale, the Seawolves have a chance to bounce back this year. Given the competition in the CAA, as well as the growing pains involved with young teams, that may not happen. As of now, they are currently playing well overall and they very well may be in for a good season.

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