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Stony Brook women’s soccer’s playoff hopes reliant on match with Drexel

Forward Luciana Setteducate (foreground) dribbles the ball past two William & Mary defenders on Sunday, Oct. 1. Setteducate will help facilitate the Stony Brook women’s soccer team’s offense against Drexel. MACKENZIE YADDAW/THE STATESMAN

Though it is slumping, the Stony Brook women’s soccer team sits just three points away from being back in the 2023 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) women’s soccer tournament picture.

The Seawolves (4-5-5, 2-4-3 CAA) are returning to Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Thursday to host the Drexel Dragons (5-7-3, 1-5-3 CAA) after a disappointing draw at Charleston last Sunday. The result kept Stony Brook in a three-way tie for seventh place in the CAA table with nine points earned, as it now sits two points behind the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) for the final postseason spot. The Dragons are sitting in 11th place in the CAA and are winless in their last three matches. Opening kickoff between the two is scheduled for 6:31 p.m.

Based on both teams’ numbers this season, Thursday’s match may be high-scoring. Drexel’s attack has been one of its only bright spots this season, scoring the fourth-most goals per match in the CAA (1.6). Leading the Dragons’ attack is 2022 All-CAA First Team selection and 2022 CAA Midfielder of the Year Annalena O’Reilly, who is ninth in the conference with five goals scored. Forward Casey Touey is the Dragons’ second-leading scorer with four goals and has also dished out two assists.

Drexel forward Isabel Kuzy is one of the CAA’s best scorers off the bench, as she has scored three goals despite averaging only 41.1 minutes played per match. Midfielders Meg Tate and Gabrielle Perrotto alongside forwards Delaney Lappin and Liv Brocious have all scored two goals each. Overall, 11 different Dragons have found the back of the net this year.

The Dragons have plenty of playmaking depth, as Tate is fifth in the CAA with five assists. Lappin was the 2022 CAA Attacking Player of the Year and is second on the team with four assists, which ranks ninth in the CAA. Perrotto has contributed three assists. Forward Elise Duffy, defender Lily Dunbar and Touey have all added two assists.

Facing such a decorated frontline, the Seawolves will need to depend on their defense to limit the damage. They are a middle-of-the-pack group in the CAA, ranking seventh in the conference with 1.21 goals conceded per match.

Defenders Catharina von Drigalski, Kerry Pearson and Aneta Sovakova are head coach Tobias Bischof’s first-choice defenders this season. Bischof has changed things up in recent games, alternating between four-player and five-player backlines. Defenders Grace Cagnina, Emma Beattie and Angelina Lent have all alternated in the starting lineup and off the bench. Midfielders Gabby Daniels and Ashley Manor also make their mark on defense to help matters.

The Seawolves’ defense will need to make goalkeeper Nicolette Pasquarella’s job easier after forcing her to make seven saves at Charleston. Pasquarella is second in the CAA with 53 saves and has recorded a .757 save percentage, which ranks sixth.

As much as Drexel’s offense has flourished, its defense has struggled. The team is allowing 1.6 goals per match, which is the second-worst number in the CAA. Dunbar is the stud of the group, as she was selected to the 2022 All-CAA Second Team. Defenders Emma Goodrow, Laila Payton and Madison Maxwell help Dunbar hold down the backline.

In net for Drexel is goalkeeper Joella Chase, who has conceded the second-most goals per match in the CAA with 1.375.

Stony Brook’s attack will look to take advantage of the Dragons’ defense. It has fared well overall this year, averaging the fifth-most goals per game (1.571) in the conference.

Forward Reilly Rich is the team’s leading scorer and is fourth in the CAA with six goals. Rich has missed the last two games with an injury, and her status moving forward is unknown. If Rich misses another match due to injury, the team will need to rely on forward Gabrielle Côté, who is tied for 10th in the conference with four goals.

Midfielder Linn Beck will be pulling the strings from a central attacking midfielder position on Thursday. She currently has three goals on the year and co-leads the team with three assists alongside forward Luciana Setteducate and von Drigalski. Manor and forward Graceann Murphy have each chipped in a pair of goals.

The Seawolves are behind the curve due to its loss versus UNCW on Oct. 5. Now without the head-to-head tiebreaker, they will need to earn more points in the CAA standings than the Seahawks to make the playoffs. However, UNCW has four games left on its conference schedule and not three, giving them more opportunities to rack up points and bury Stony Brook.

Also in the picture are Charleston and Delaware, who are tied with the Seawolves in seventh place. Stony Brook drew against both of them, meaning that its overall record may come into play to break the tie. The best thing it can do is win out and hope for help from other teams to beat or draw with UNCW, Charleston and Delaware.

The Seahawks are scheduled to play William & Mary, Monmouth, Drexel and Delaware in that order. The Cougars will face Monmouth, William & Mary and Elon. The Blue Hens may have the easiest path to the playoffs, as after they face Hofstra, they will take on Hampton and UNCW.

Failing to get three points against Drexel may very well seal the Seawolves’ fate, pending the results of the other Thursday night matches.

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