#Seawolves poised for another run at America East title
Aug. 18, 2014
The #Seawolves head into 2014 with lofty expectations after consecutive historic seasons under head coach Sue Ryan. Last year’s squad defended its 2012 America East Championship admirably, claiming its first-ever regular season title before falling to UMBC 2-1 in the conference final. The Seawolves ended the season 11-6-2 and 6-2 in conference play. Ryan says their back-to-back double digit win seasons have turned the “hunters into the hunted” but believes her squad is well prepared to handle the challenges that await.
“Our team knows that we can’t allow our success over the last two years to let us be complacent,” cautioned Ryan. “This group knows what it takes to win and saw in last year’s final how fragile this game can be. I think they know they will get every team’s best shot and are ready for it.”
Ryan’s initial impression of her 2014 team is that it is as deep as any team she has had in her 30 years at Stony Brook. One of the challenges facing the Seawolves is how they will blend the experience of 18 returning players with the youth of 12 incoming freshmen. So far, Ryan is thrilled with what she has seen.
“This has been one of the most competitive preseasons we have ever had here at Stony Brook,” said Ryan. “The freshmen came in fit and ready to contribute and the returners have done a fabulous job of integrating them into what we have built here. Our players are working hard to earn spots for the fall but they have also done a tremendous job of supporting the people they are competing against for the spots. It has created a nice dynamic.”
"With 12 newcomers and two new coaches joining the staff, there was a lot of change this offseason,” explained Ryan. “Shannon and Regan have done a fabulous job of taking the team by the reigns, embracing the change and getting everybody to buy into our team concept and the core values of our program.”
Now that the uncertainty of the unknown has settled, all that awaits the Seawolves is their opening match against Rutgers on Aug. 22. The new-look Seawolves were picked to finish second in the America East preseason coaches’ poll and have been impressive in two preseason wins over Army and Lehigh to kick off the campaign.
"It's nice to achieve some competitive success before the season," remarked Ryan. "We have played two quality opponents from the Patriot League and have gotten solid contributions across the board from our returning players to our freshmen."
For the third consecutive season, redshirt senior Ashley Castanio (Oceanside, N.Y.) will patrol the Seawolves goal. Castanio enjoyed a breakout 2013 season, winning the America East Goalkeeper of the Year award and earning a first team all-conference nod after leading the conference with 107 saves. She was also voted to the NSCAA Northeast Region third team and currently sits second in school history with a 1.18 career goals against average. Ryan has also been pleased with the freshmen tandem of Jessica Long (Exeter, N.H.) and Shannon Robinson (Stony Point, N.Y.), who have pushed Castanio with strong fall camps.
Stony Brook's back four will have to overcome the departure of America East first-teamer Stella Norman, but the Seawolves have enough returning experience to help soften the blow. Junior Priscilla Wiggins (Princeton, N.J.) will be counted on for leadership and guidance after starting all 19 games in defense for the Seawolves in 2013. She has formed a nice chemistry with fellow junior Danielle Fuller (Staten Island, N.Y.), making them the likely candidates to anchor the Seawolves central defense. Junior Emily Murrer (Aptos, Calif.) and sophomore Hannah Groth (Cedarburg, Wis.) both saw significant playing time a year ago and may have an early edge at the outside back positions. Ryan alluded to senior Eliza Mendoza (Fontana, Calif.), who has spent her first three years as a forward, and freshman Sydney Vaughn (Ballwin, Mo.) as two others who will make a big impact on the Seawolves backline. Freshman Franki Priore (Merrick, N.Y.) is another option to play in the back and will provide the club with adequate depth.
Junior and second-team America East selection Tessa Devereaux (Fayetteville, N.Y.) spearheads the deep and talented Stony Brook midfield. Through two seasons Devereaux has amassed nine assists, just three shy of cracking the school’s top-10 mark. In behind her are a pair of steady and dependable seniors in Bosnyak, who missed most of 2013 with an injury, and Christina Casamassina (Farmingville, N.Y.). Freshmen Gabi Rosenfeld (Holland, Pa.) and Jaimee Farrell (Bellevue, Wash.) have both adapted quickly to the pace of the collegiate game and will be counted on to provide critical minutes in the center of the park. Sophomores Lauren Kovalchuk (Belle Vernon, Pa.) and Christina Fluman (Pittsford, N.Y.), an America East All-Rookie selection a year ago, bring an extra defensive presence to the midfield corps, while sophomore Elise Pratt (Sicklerville, N.J.) and freshmen Sam Goodwin (Westbury, N.Y.) and Kendall Machak (Pompton Plains, N.J.) round out the extremely deep group.
Gone from last year’s team is America East first-team forward Larissa Nysch and her 11 goals but Ryan feels her team has the pieces in place to make up for her production. At times, Ryan admits the Seawolves were over-reliant on Nysch for offense and feels this unit should get goals from a bevy of different places. Redshirt sophomore Raven Edwards (West Orange, N.J.) missed all of 2013 with an injury but proved to be a consistent goal scorer as a freshman when she netted five goals. Her return should compliment Grogan’s experience and poise and freshman Manuela Corcho’s (Norwalk, Conn.) pace and skill to form a formidable front three. Ryan mentioned sophomores Maxie New (Clayton, N.J.) and Lindsay Hutchinson (Millersville, Pa.), and freshman Maddie Good (Palmyra, Pa.) as target forward options to spell Grogan up front. All three have the strength to play on the last defender and hold up the ball in possession. New was an All-Rookie America East selection in 2013 with two goals and four assists. Look for freshman Christen Cahill (Pembroke, Mass.) and sophomore all-rookie selection Leah Yurko (Cumberland, Md.) to add pace to the attack and stretch opposing defenses down the flanks. Senior Megan Rea (East Haven, Conn.) and freshman Emily Turner (Ann Arbor, Mich.) are also options to play at the forward position.
By the numbers:
289 - the number of combined career starts returning to the Seawolves in 2014
218 - the amount of wins amassed by Ryan as a head coach in her 29 seasons at Stony Brook
136 - the combined returning starts from last year’s team
89 - the amount of career points returning (27 goals and 35 assists) in 2014
51 - the amount of points returning from last year’s team (16 goals and 19 assists)
36 - the number of goals the Seawolves tallied in 2013, the most in the conference
23- the number of wins the Seawolves have compiled over their last two seasons
The Seawolves will face a daunting 2014 schedule. Included on the slate are Rutgers, Connecticut, St. John's and UMBC; all but Connecticut appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2013. Nine of the 17 #Seawolves opponents recorded winning records last season with Rutgers and St. John’s ending the year ranked in the RPI top 40. Despite the difficult schedule, Stony Brook managed to record a 9-3-2 record against teams they are slated to face this fall in 2013.
“I think the high-powered schedule will fuel us moving forward,” said Ryan. “By the time conference play rolls around we should be well-prepared and playing at our highest level.”