Midfielder Linn Beck in a game against Providence on Sept. 4. Beck is part of a young core of players leading the Stony Brook women’s soccer team to success. KAYLA GOMEZ MOLANO/THE STATESMAN

When forward Alyssa Francese and midfielder Chelsie DePonte graduated, things looked to be trending downward for the Stony Brook women’s soccer team. The pair were the only two players to score more than one goal on last year’s disappointing 7-8-2 team that averaged less than one goal per game. For a team that already had trouble scoring with those two players, there were some major questions looking to be answered by the Seawolves in the 2022 season.

Luckily for them, it looks like they have found their answer — or rather, answers. An infusion of youth has turned this entire team around, as the Seawolves appear reborn in the early stretch of their 2022 season. Still playing in the non-conference part of their schedule, Stony Brook has gotten off to a 3-2 start and has already scored 12 goals in just five games. Of those 12 goals, eight of them have been scored by five different freshmen.

“We’ve brought in 15 new players this year, and they’ve all had a very positive impact on the team,” head coach Tobias Bischof said in an interview with The Statesman. “And you see it in our lineups that a lot of those new players — if it’s transfers or freshmen — they all get quite a lot of playing time.”

Bischof has regularly relied on his new core of young players to help carry this team. Two freshmen are already regular starters, as forward Hannah Maracina and midfielder Linn Beck have started each of the first five games at the start of the season. Forward Luciana Setteducate and midfielder Jadyn Lui have also played in all five games for the Seawolves. Bischof has also played a pair of freshmen goalies — Jordan Wolf and Ava King — in several games this year. 

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Beck and Maracina have been right at the forefront of the solid young core that Stony Brook is developing. In the comeback win against Fordham on opening night, Beck and Maracina scored a pair of goals in the final two minutes to walk-off against the Rams and start the season with a win. From that point forward, it has been smooth sailing for the freshmen stars, as the two of them have racked up two goals and an assist each. They have also combined for 10 shots on goal in just 17 total shots between the two.

“I think it’s just the energy we bring,” Beck said. “We have respect towards the team we’re playing, but I think we have this attitude that every team is beatable. We want to show them that we’re a really good team, too, even though we’re so young.”

Bischof spoke highly of Beck and Maracina, saying that he is impressed with them as players at this point in their careers.

“Hannah has a good nose for the goal,” Bischof said. “She is pretty athletic, pretty fast and fearless. Linn played in Germany. She’s a very talented player; we knew that from the beginning. I’m happy that she chose to play for us.”

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Lui and Setteducate have also scored one goal each, with their first career goals both coming in the first half of the game against LIU on Aug. 28. Defender Sammy Hannwacker has also made the most of her playing time, as she has only played in 34 total minutes between three games, but has managed to score on each of her first two shot attempts. Maracina said that building chemistry with the upperclassmen has helped the younger players perform well to start the year.

“I think coming in earlier and getting that connection with the upperclassmen made it easier for us to feel more comfortable out there,” Maracina said.

King and Wolf have been part of a four-player platoon at the goalkeeper position and have performed well when given the opportunity. King leads the team with 12 saves and an .800 save percentage, while also assisting Maracina’s game-winner against Fordham with a goal kick. Wolf has started two games while recording a .750 save percentage, and the team is 2-0 in her starts. It is possible that they see more action on the field this year once the conference season begins.

“It’s going to be a very flexible system this year,” Bischof said of his goalkeeper situation.

Rounding out the core of key young players is midfielder Gabby Daniels. Now in her sophomore season, Daniels is the most experienced one of the group. Daniels played all 17 games (16 starts) in her freshman year, while tallying one goal and one assist. She has remained in the starting lineup for the Seawolves this year, and has gotten off to a better start in her sophomore year. Bischof said that her freshman season impressed him, and that he wants her to improve offensively this year.

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“Gabby was a player who got a lot of playing time last year and performed at a pretty high level,” Bischof said. “Unfortunately, she did not get recognized from the America East and didn’t even make the rookie team, which was mind-boggling to me. That was a little bit bizarre. She’s very athletic; she’s more of a ‘destroyer’ kind of player. We want her to not just concentrate on her defensive game, but to also be more involved in the offensive game.”

Daniels currently is getting more involved on offense, as she already scored her first goal of the season against Bryant in the second game of the season. Daniels said that she is encouraged by the young players and how they are playing thus far.

“I would say it’s really refreshing to see how well the young players are doing,” Daniels said. “It can be challenging to have such a young team against all of these teams that have all of these veterans. It’s really good to see how good everyone is doing. We’re communicating well, we’re listening to each other and working really well together.”

The young core does not stop with those players. Many other young players have filled significant minutes for the Seawolves and have helped lead the team to their successful start, whether it has registered in the statsheet or not. Midfielder Ashley Manor has started all five games for Stony Brook thus far. Forward Gabrielle Côté has also played in every game and started in two, while registering three shots and a shot on goal. Defender Angelina Lent has played every game while starting in four games. Midfielder Kaylee Armenia has not played many minutes, but has already recorded an assist. Forward Aneta Sovakova started nine games as a freshman last year, and has played in every game while starting two.

There is a lot of time left in this season for everyone to watch these players grow. So far, plenty of them have impressed, but still have room for improvement; others are still waiting for their moment to shine. They still have a couple of non-conference games left to go in order to prepare themselves for their first season in the CAA. Though the impact these young players have made has been immediate, the greater benefit of having this talented young core means that the team will be competitive for the next couple of years. 

“It gives us a really good vibe to go into this new conference and keep building,” Daniels said. “We have a lot to look forward to.”

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The young Seawolves’ first taste of CAA action is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. They will get to host William & Mary on their home field, as they will look to make good on their promising start with Stony Brook.

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