After needing to add a premier scoring threat to a dull offense, the Stony Brook women’s soccer team struck gold this offseason with the acquisition of forward Reilly Rich.
After losing their top two scorers from the 2021 season to graduation — forward Alyssa Francese and midfielder Chelsie DePonte — the Seawolves desperately needed somebody that could fill those voids. Rich has led the team in most offensive statistics since joining Stony Brook, recording four goals and three assists through her first eight games. Though a pleasant surprise for the Seawolves in 2022, her success long predates her Stony Brook days.
Rich grew up right outside of Utica in Ilion, N.Y. She attended Central Valley Academy, where she was a standout athlete in multiple sports. Rich comes from a competitive family of athletes, and she was quick to learn that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“It was always a competitive atmosphere,” Rich said in an interview with The Statesman. “Since I was little I was running around the soccer field with the older kids.”
Rich was coached by her father on her high school varsity team. She credits him as being a large influence in her life, both as an athlete and as a person.
“He has always been my biggest motivator and my biggest supporter,” Rich said. “He’s always been there to support me, and honestly if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t be here today. I’m super grateful for him and everything he’s given me.”
Rich racked up 149 goals and 41 assists throughout her six seasons on the varsity girl’s soccer team, ultimately breaking the school record for goals scored. She won NYSSCOGS Class B Co-Player of the Year in her senior year. That was the same season that she led her team all the way to the state championship game, but lost by just one goal.
Along with being a standout soccer player in high school, Rich was also a star on the basketball court. She played five seasons on the varsity team and became the first in her school’s history to score 1,000 points in a career.
Her high school lacrosse career was not as much of a success story. Individually, it went well for Rich, as she scored 25 goals and racked up four assists. Despite her performance, the team lost every game in tremendous fashion. The lacrosse program was cut after that season, but Rich used it as a learning experience to improve her mindset as a winner.
“It was a new program to our school, so we kind of knew that we weren’t going to be anything spectacular,” Rich said. “We were going to go out and see what we can do, and just have fun.”
Rich graduated high school in 2020, and college recruitment was difficult for her due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the challenges that Rich faced, she chose to stay close to home and play at the junior college (JUCO) level instead. She attended Mohawk Valley Community College, where she played soccer for the Hawks.
“I think COVID was a big factor in that. It was just kind of an awkward time to go away from home,” Rich said. “I made a good experience out of it.”
Mohawk Valley was an easy pick for Rich. The college is a 20-minute drive from her hometown, and she got to play with a couple of her high school teammates. The cherry on top for Rich was that she played under her former club coach, Jim Vitale.
“We were all super close; we had a great group of girls,” Rich said. “We had a great connection. It was really just a fun experience.”
Rich recorded 14 goals and 3 assists in a shortened freshman season, but it was in her sophomore year that she wreaked havoc on her JUCO competition.
In 2021, Rich made the most of the JUCO opportunity and proved why she deserved to play at the next level. She scored 42 goals and tacked on 10 assists in her second season at Mohawk Valley, leading her team to the NJCAA Division III Region III-A title.
Later that year, Rich shined brightest in the title game. In a win-or-go-home game against SUNY Broome Community College, Rich scored four of her team’s five goals and earned the tournament’s MVP award. Her second goal of the game broke the Mohawk Valley single-season record. She was crowned the Region III Player of the Year following the game.
Rich also played basketball for the Hawks, but soccer was always her first love.
“I definitely enjoyed playing other sports such as basketball and lacrosse but, I don’t know, I just always kept coming back to soccer,” Rich said. “I put the most time and effort into soccer.”
When it came time to decide the next step of her journey, Rich only had her eye on one school to finish out her collegiate career: Stony Brook University.
“It was definitely a pretty quick decision,” Rich said. “Once I was in contact with the coaches here and some of the players, I just knew that this was going to be a fit for me.”
Now a junior, Rich has hit the ground running for the Seawolves. In her first year playing at the Division I level, she leads the team in goals, assists, points, shots and shots on goal. Though it may seem like the transition was a seamless one, Rich voiced the obstacles she had to deal with playing on a brand new team.
“Everyone’s quicker, faster, and stronger,” Rich said. “That’s how you have to allow yourself to grow as a player … everything needs to be amped up times 10.”
Despite the adjustments to playing with a new group and the nerves of being away from home, Rich gave much praise to her teammates and coaching staff for welcoming her with open arms.
“It’s definitely a tough transition, but I had a great group around me,” Rich said. “The coaching staff could tell me specifically everything I needed to work on. It was a difficult transition but at the same time, the people that were around me made it a lot easier.”
It didn’t take long for Rich to turn heads on the Division I level. In just her second game as a Seawolf, Rich scored her first career NCAA goal against Bryant. Rich also spearheaded the offense against LIU, recording a goal and an assist in a 5-1 victory.
In their first season in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), the Seawolves’ expectations are not high and they are currently riding some negative momentum as conference play gets closer. Regardless of this, Rich does not seem worried and is hopeful that her team will get its season back on track soon.
“We know what our goal is, and if we try to apply our game plan in each game then we know that we’ll be successful,” Rich said. “The goals and the assists will come; you just have to let the game come to you.”
Rich said that she is excited for Stony Brook’s game against Hofstra. The Seawolves will be playing their Long Island rival (and new conference rival) for their last game of the regular season.
“Everyone always talks about that game,” Rich said. “I’m honestly just excited to get into conference play and see what our team can do.”
If Rich’s first eight games in a Seawolves uniform are any indication of what is to come, Stony Brook fans have a lot to look forward to.