Now in her third year with the Stony Brook women’s soccer team, defender Kerry Pearson has worked her way from the promising upstart to the leader of the pack. However, her story in soccer long predates her days at Stony Brook, going back to when she was just a toddler.
Pearson comes from a very athletic background, as her family was no stranger to the world of sports. Her mother, Marianne, was a softball player at Manhattan College, while her father, Robert, was a bowler at St. John’s University. Pearson’s older sister, Maureen, was also a Division I soccer player, as she played five years with Sacred Heart before graduating this past spring. She says that despite her parents’ athletic background, they did not pressure her into playing college sports like they did.
“Honestly, my parents were always my biggest supporters,” Pearson said in an interview with The Statesman. “They really just wanted what was best for me and if playing soccer in college wasn’t what was going to be best for me, then it was not a problem.”
Pearson’s career began at the age of two, when her mother signed her up to play intramural soccer. While playing soccer as a little kid, she made two important friendships that still last to this day. Current teammates Graceann Murphy and Emma Beattie played on the same team as her from the time they were little, and they all grew up together chasing the same dream.
“We were all on the same club team, and our club team was really, really good,” Pearson said. “We got into soccer through that. We all obviously wanted to play college soccer, and it just so happened that we all ended up at Stony Brook.”
As Pearson grew older, she became a multi-sport athlete. She started playing lacrosse in the third grade and played it throughout high school. Pearson also ran spring track in high school. However, soccer was the sport that always had her heart.
“Soccer was definitely always my favorite,” Pearson said. “The other two sports came after it. Lacrosse was something fun to do because all of my friends were on the team, and then track was just to stay in shape for soccer.”
Pearson decided that she wanted to play college soccer before she even reached high school. For Pearson, the decision was just too easy for her to make.
“I probably knew I was going to fully commit to soccer in eighth grade,” Pearson said. “Growing up, I had sacrificed so much time for soccer and it just made sense. It was always a dream to play in college.”
Pearson attended Sanford H. Calhoun High School and played four seasons on the school’s varsity girl’s soccer team. After being selected to the All-Conference team as a sophomore, Pearson was named team captain in her junior year. She held the captainship for her final two years in high school, earning All-County selections both years. Pearson said that building self-confidence was the most valuable thing that she took away from her time in high school.
“When you come to college, everybody’s good,” Pearson said. “So, when you’re in high school, if you’re a standout, it’s easy to learn and be confident in who you are as a player in high school more than it is in college.”
During her final season, Pearson sprained several knee ligaments that caused her to miss the second half of the soccer season. However, neither the injury nor the recovery time was enough to deter her. She believes that this conflict wound up helping her in the long run.
“Looking back now, I feel it was honestly helpful because that was when I started getting into training for college,” Pearson said. “I was able to take time off to reflect, and be able to come back stronger for college. Mentally it wasn’t that draining.”
When the time came for Pearson to decide where she wanted to play, she had two offers on the table, one of which was from Stony Brook. At the time, Pearson was not looking into Stony Brook’s program until she spoke to Tobias Bischof, who was her club soccer coach at the time. Bischof made a suggestion to Pearson that she visit the campus, to which Pearson obliged. After her visit, Pearson knew she wanted to become a Seawolf. Ironically, Bischof was later hired by Stony Brook to be the women’s soccer team’s head coach.
Pearson says that Bischof’s hiring at Stony Brook helped make her commitment decision easier; so did Beattie’s commitment to the school prior to her.
“Knowing [Bischof] and his coaching style was a big factor into it,” Pearson said. “Also, Emma Beattie was also committed here prior to me committing. She was one of my best friends growing up, so that makes it a lot easier.”
Pearson finally arrived at Stony Brook during the fall of 2020 while the world was on lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic. Fall athletes in the NCAA had their seasons delayed until the spring, and their practice schedules were unorthodox. However, Pearson credited her older teammates for helping her transition from high school to college.
The start to her first season at Stony Brook didn’t fully begin until February 2021, but Pearson and her team managed together.
“It was just a very long preseason in the fall,” Pearson said. “But we got through it, and then in the end of the day it was all worth it because we had a really great spring season.”
That season wound up being a successful one for Pearson and the Seawolves, as the team won the America East and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Pearson played in all 10 games for Stony Brook and was selected to the All-Rookie team. She scored the tying-goal in the conference tournament semifinal game against Vermont.
Before the season started, she did not know how big her role on that team would be.
“Coming into the year, I wasn’t expecting to even play,” Pearson said. “I had a good couple of non-conferences games and then Tobi [Bischof] gave me the opportunity to start in the game.”
After having such a special first year, the team’s next season took a turn for the worst when they missed the America East postseason tournament. Pearson led the team in minutes played and started in all 17 games for the Seawolves. She scored her only goal of the season against Albany and also tallied three assists on the year. The Seawolves finished strong, but by the time they found their flow, it was too late to save their season.
“When you get picked to be number one, every other team is coming after you,” Pearson said. “It was really tough for us to find our groove in a way, we never really got into a rhythm.”
This year, as the team looks to bounce back from their disappointing 2021, Pearson has been tasked with leading this team to improvement. Not only is she still a full-time starting defender, but she has been named team co-captain alongside defender Catharina von Drigalski.
“I felt very honored to be named captain with Catha [von Drigalski],” Pearson said. “I think our biggest goal is to keep everyone united.”
The youthful women’s soccer team is still putting the pieces together, as they are currently 4-6-2 overall this season. Despite that, Pearson has enjoyed her role as co-captain.
“It’s been really fun,” Pearson said. “I just do what I do and I hope that people can see that I really care about the whole team.”
Being a team captain is not an easy job, but Pearson has her fellow co-captain von Drigalski to learn from. Pearson said that von Drigalski does a good job moving on from losses, which is an integral trait of all good leaders.
“She does a good job at channeling that frustration into just getting better for the next game,” Pearson said. “Learning that from her has been huge.”
As a leader, Pearson has been frustrated with the team’s struggles, but has high aspirations for the rest of the conference season. She believes that the team can come together to finish strong.
“I think we are a little bit more confident now,” Pearson said. “I think we all had a sense of ‘Ok, we can do this. We’re here, we can do this.’”
As of Oct. 2, Pearson is yet to score her first goal of the 2022 season. As the season continues, Pearson will look to improve as a player and as a leader, all while trying to help the team make the playoffs in a crowded conference. It will not be easy, but Pearson is ready for the challenge as the end of the season slowly approaches.