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Versatile Casey provides early season offense for Seawolves

(MEHMET TEMEL / THE STATESMAN)
Will Casey plays in Stony Brook soccer game. (MEHMET TEMEL / THE STATESMAN)

In 2012 Will Casey was one of the Stony Brook Men’s Soccer team’s top defenders. This season, he is one of the team’s best forwards and leads the team in goals and points.

It is this sort of versatility that has allowed Casey to become one of the most reliable players that head coach Ryan Anatol has on his team.

“He’s very unselfish,” Coach Anatol said. “I’ve been here three years now, and for three years he’s played a different position. And that’s what he’s gonna do. He’s gonna do whatever it takes for the team to be successful.”

Coming into training camp this season, there was no exact plan on what position Casey would play. He had been originally recruited as a forward when he first came to Stony Brook, but played 16 games on defense in 2012.

But, with the Seawolves losing three of their top four leading point scorers from the previous season to graduation, including America East 2012 midfielder of the year Leonardo Fernandes, the team was left with a need for players upfront. Casey was more than happy to make the position change to fill that void.

“Obviously everyone likes to score goals, and I think I’m best when I’m up there [at forward],” Casey said.

So far this season, the switch seems to be paying off, as Casey has been extremely productive at forward. He has registered 4 goals, 8 points, 2 game-winning goals, and 29 shots throughout the team’s first nine games.

“He works hard, and makes it very hard for the other backs to get settled,” coach Anatol said. “He pressures them well, and he’s been able to create some opportunities because of that.”

Last week Casey was the recipient of the America East Player of the Week Award. He received the honor after notching a game-winning goal on a header, in a 1-0 win against Northeastern on Sept. 28.

Casey feels he has been playing well, but is also quick to give his teammates credit for his hot start.

“Really it’s just the guys around me, just playing well, and giving me good scoring opportunities,” he said. “And then it’s just me finishing when I get the chance.”

Casey grew up not far from Stony Brook University, in Setauket, Long Island. Stony Brook’s proximity to his hometown has allowed his family and friends the opportunity to see him play frequently.

“The community comes out to support a lot of games, and it’s interesting that I know a lot of them,” Casey said. “It’s good you know. My parents get to come to every game.”

As a child, Casey would frequently watch the Stony Brook soccer team play in person. He says getting to play for the team now has extra special meaning for him.

“I was here when we played in the grass field, and there were five people in the stands, and now we got a nice crowd, and a beautiful stadium,” he said. “So it’s a privilege, absolutely.”

Casey played his high school ball at Ward Melville, where he was a three-year letterwinner. His best season came in his senior year, when he led his team with 16 goals and 11 assists.

For his effort that season he received All-New-York-State, All-Long-Island, and All-Conference honors. Despite his high school success, Casey said there was an adjustment period he had to go through during the beginning of his collegiate career.

“High school ball was a lot of fun, but it’s nothing like in college,” he said. “Picking up on skill level and the speed of play is a big change the first year.”

Casey’s playing time was limited his freshman season, although he did notch his first collegiate goal in a match against Lafayette. In 2011 he began to take on a bigger role for the club. He started in 18 of his team’s matches as a midfielder, and had 2 goals and 6 points on the season.

Then last season Casey helped anchor one of the top defensive units in the America East. The Seawolves allowed the third least amount of goals in the conference last season. He also scored a game-winning overtime goal in an America East Championship quarterfinals matchup against Binghamton.

Now in his final year with the Seawolves, Casey is serving as a vice captain. He is one of only four seniors on the team and is relied upon for leadership on a relatively young Stony Brook squad.

“Will leads in many ways,” said coach Anatol. “He leads by example, by the things that he does on the field. He’s a good guy in the locker room and off the field as well. He’s been around now, so the guys definitely look up to him.”

Despite some mixed results in game action early on, Casey says he has liked how the team has meshed so far this season.

“We came in early, and everyone’s getting along well,” Casey said. “And the play is coming along, I think we can play better, but everyday we’re improving, so hopefully we’ll get it together.”

Stony Brook began the conference portion of their schedule on Friday, and will now look to make a strong second-half push, and Coach Anatol expects Casey to be a big part of the push.

“Will’s a guy, who you know is gonna show up every day, and work as hard as he can possibly work for the good of the team,” Coach Anatol said.

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