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Stony Brook men’s soccer gears up for big match with UNCW

Forward Olsen Aluc (middle) crosses up a defender against St. Joseph’s on Tuesday, Sept. 26. Aluc’s five goals lead the Stony Brook men’s soccer team this year. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

With half of the regular season in the books, the Stony Brook men’s soccer team is still undefeated in conference play and looking to stay atop the conference.

The first-place Seawolves (3-3-2, 2-0-2 CAA) will host the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks (5-2-2, 1-1-1 CAA) at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Saturday. Opening kickoff is set for 2 p.m.

There is not much history between these two teams. They have only met twice, with UNCW winning both matches. The last meeting came in 2016. The Seahawks earned their first conference win with a dominant 4-0 performance against the Campbell Camels last Saturday. With a win this Saturday, UNCW could propel itself as high as second place, pending the results of the other matches around the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA).

Statistically, the Seahawks are a defense-first team. They are only conceding one goal per match, which is tied for the third-best rate in the CAA. UNCW’s backline is anchored by defenders Jake Shannon, Jaden Strumeier and Josef Hefele. Defender Carter Beaulieu is the first back off the team’s bench. UNCW midfielder Michael Morell also contributes on defense, as he has played in all nine games (eight starts) and taken only one shot.

UNCW goalkeeper Jacob Randolph is the team’s last line of defense. He has made 25 saves this year and posted a .735 save percentage. His four clean sheets are tied for the second most in the CAA.

Opposing the Seahawks’ strong defense is the Seawolves’ deadly attack. They have been an offensive powerhouse this season, as they lead the CAA with 21 goals scored and have 11 different goalscorers. Forward Olsen Aluc leads the team with five goals, while forward Jonas Bičkus and midfielder Trevor Harrison are right behind with three scores apiece.

Stony Brook also boasts a very generous offense, as it leads the conference with 24 assists and an average of three assists per match. Forward Moses Bakabulindi co-leads the CAA with six assists, while Aluc has dished out another three. The Seawolves have had 15 different players record at least one assist.

As the year rolls on, Stony Brook continues to improve defensively. The Seawolves have allowed just three goals over the last three matches and are conceding only one goal per game in conference play. However, they have allowed the fifth-most goals per match (1.5) in the conference this season.

A big piece of Stony Brook’s success has been goalkeeper Edmond Kaiser, who is currently 10th in the nation in saves (41) after getting Tuesday night off. He has faced the most shots on target (53) in the CAA this year, yet he has posted the conference’s third-best save percentage (.774).

UNCW’s offense will look to break out against the Seawolves’ mediocre defense. The Seahawks have taken the fourth-most shots in the CAA (104) and landed the fifth-most shots on goal (48).

UNCW will count on midfielders Gabe Mercer and Ethan Newsome to lead the offense. The pair have scored more than half of UNCW’s goals this season combined, and both scored in the win over Campbell. Mercer is tied for sixth in the conference with four goals, while Newsome has scored three. Newsome and midfielder Omar Aboutaleb co-lead the team with two assists apiece.

UNCW forward Cannon Tootle is the team’s third-leading scorer, contributing two goals on 11 shots.

A win for Stony Brook would preserve its first-place standing; a draw or a loss may jeopardize it. With Drexel just one point behind the Seawolves in the CAA table and four teams tied with five points apiece, this match will have big implications on the playoff picture moving forward.

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