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Stony Brook men’s soccer’s season ends in opening round of CAA playoffs

Forward Jonas Bičkus receives a pass against Lafayette on Tuesday, Oct. 24. Bičkus led the Stony Brook men’s soccer team with four shots and two shots on goal in the loss on Thursday. GEORGE CARATZAS/THE STATESMAN

What was once a promising season for the third-seeded Stony Brook men’s soccer team came crashing down in the first round of the 2023 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) men’s soccer tournament.

The Seawolves’ (6-6-5, 4-1-3 CAA) offensive slump carried into the postseason, which ultimately ended their 2023 campaign. They faced the sixth-seeded Elon Phoenix (6-8-3, 3-3-2 CAA) at Hesse Field in New Jersey on Thursday and lost 1-0, eliminating them from the playoffs.

From the opening whistle, Stony Brook failed to pose a threat in the final third of the pitch. Instead, Elon was the one to put on the pressure early on. Just 57 seconds into the contest, Elon defender Ben Rosenblatt banged a shot off the crossbar, setting the tone early.

In the fourth minute, a through ball by Elon forward Victor Stromsten split the Seawolves’ center-back duo and set up midfielder Calle Edelstam with a one-on-one against goalkeeper Edmond Kaiser. Edelstam attempted to shoot between Kaiser’s legs, but he closed them in time to keep the match scoreless.

Stromsten posed the most significant threat to the Seawolves’ backline all night. Defender Bas van Beckhoven — who is 5-foot-8 — was tasked with keeping the Phoenix’s 6-foot-7 striker in check, which came back to bite Stony Brook in the end.

Van Beckhoven succeeded in limiting Stromsten until the 53rd minute. On the left flank, Elon midfielder Scott Vatne whipped a low cross into Stony Brook’s box. Van Beckhoven lost track of Stromsten, who squeezed between him and defender Sean Towey to tap the ball into the net. The Phoenix never looked back from their 1-0 lead and avenged their loss to the Seawolves from Sept. 1.

The closest Stony Brook came to equalizing the match came in the 59th minute. Forward Moses Bakabulindi found midfielder Alex Fléury at the top of the box with a pass. Fléury controlled the ball, used fancy footwork to elude a defender and rolled a shot across his body. Though the shot beat Elon goalkeeper Tomasz Wroblewski — who helplessly froze up — Fléury’s strike whistled wide of the right post.

Although the offense failed to deliver, Kaiser kept them in it in the 75th minute. Forward Selcuk Kahveci was dispossessed at the midfield line, setting up the Phoenix for a counterattack. Elon midfielder Gustavo Atencio placed a precise through ball in sync with forward Jack Dolk’s run into the box. His first touch was a shot, which Kaiser stopped.

The Seawolves had one last opportunity in the 80th minute, but Wroblewski comfortably caressed a weak shot by midfielder Amit Magoz to seal the deal. Elon will now face the second-seeded Monmouth Hawks on their own home pitch on Sunday.

Stony Brook was the less-active offensive side. It attempted 13 shots to the Phoenix’s 17. Five of the Seawolves’ shots challenged Wroblewski, while Elon hit the target 10 times.

Kaiser’s performance in the season’s finale was emblematic of his entire year. He finished with nine saves on Thursday, giving him 85 stops in 2023 despite not playing in a pair of games. Kaiser ended his Stony Brook career with 252 saves, which is the fourth-most in program history.

Forward Jonas Bičkus led the team with four shots and landed two on target, while forward Caleb Danquah attempted three shots. Danquah, Magoz and defender Jacson Coppack each tallied a shot on goal. Edelstam and Vatne co-led the Phoenix with three shots and two shots on goal apiece.

With most of their impact players set to return in 2024, the Seawolves will look to build on their surprising 2023 season. However, they will have to find the successor to Kaiser, as he has officially run out of NCAA eligibility.

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About the Contributor
Alex Streinger
Alex Streinger, Assistant Sports Editor
Alex Streinger is an Assistant Sports Editor of The Statesman. He is a junior majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. He is the beat reporter of the Stony Brook men’s soccer and nationally-ranked women’s lacrosse teams. He interns at Movendi International, the largest independent global social movement for development through alcohol prevention.
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