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Women’s Soccer defeats Seton Hall at home, then falls to UConn on road

(JISOO HWANG / THE STATESMAN)
Leah Yurko (No. 15) scored her first goal of the season on Thursday. (JISOO HWANG / THE STATESMAN)

“It’s good to be home.”

Seawolves Head Coach Sue Ryan could not have said it any better. After a tough past week where the Stony Brook women’s soccer team suffered two road losses against Siena and Wagner, the Seawolves returned home with a well-earned victory against the Seton Hall Pirates, 2-1.

“Our team is continuing to improve every game, I feel really positive about that. Little bit of a young team and working through some bumps and bruises along the way, but tonight I think was an example of how we’re finding ways to win games,” Ryan said.

The game featured both exciting offense and solid defense from both sides. With the game nearly six minutes old, Stony Brook’s Leah Yurko put away her first goal of the year on a pass from freshman forward Maddie Good. Good was able to make a pass from the goal line and connect with Yurko about 10 yards out. Yurko then shot it into the left corner past the Seton Hall goalkeeper Illissa Blackshear.

After Stony Brook’s first goal, play evened out and both teams traded neutral zone possession. Seton Hall had plenty of rushes yet were unable to capitalize on any of them in the first half due to the inability to get in close to create quality scoring chances. Credit goes to the Stony Brook defense, as an impressive slide tackle from freshman Franki Priore in the first half was one of many defensive plays that showed the strength and grit of the defensive unit.

“I think they’re really starting to come together,” Ryan said of her defense. “I was really pleased with the way they worked as a unit tonight.”

Priore certainly did step up tonight as she effectively neutralized Seton Hall rushes. Along with some slide tackles, Priore provided defense with a physical presence, as she showed no fear challenging forwards.

“I think I really started to pick up the play of the game my team plays and I really got the hang of things today, and I think I did a good job stepping up in my role,” Priore said when asked about her play.

As the end of the first half drew near, Seton Hall pushed hard for a late goal to tie things up, but a counter from Stony Brook led to a breakaway for senior forward Shannon Grogan. The play started with a pretty lead pass from Maxie New to Grogan, who was able to split the defense and find herself alone with the goalkeeper. Trying to cut back to the middle, Grogan had the ball stolen from her by Blackshear. She finished the game with three saves.

The second half started the way the first half began. Stony Brook struck early in the 53rd minute with a goal from junior Tessa Devereaux, who buried a shot from five yards out. There were no assists on the goal although nice passes by first Good and then Yurko led to an opportunity for Raven Edwards, who missed the header. The deflected ball hit an opponent and ended up at the feet of Devereaux who put the ball away for her first goal of the year.

From here out the Pirates began to take over the game. They outshot the Seawolves 15-3 in the second half and had five corner kicks. The Pirates eventually scored on a play goalkeeper Ashley Castanio would like to have back. In the 67th minute, she failed to handle a deflection in front of her net and Pirates sophomore Sarah Cortes was there to bury it. This cut the Seawolves’ lead in half.

This was the only blunder for Castanio, as the defending America East Goalkeeper of the Year was brilliant on the night with 10 saves and only one goal against.

With the Pirates a goal behind it was time for the Seawolves defense to step up, and that’s exactly what they did. Bend not break is how the defense’s night could be described, as they were able to withstand Seton Hall’s barrage.

“We have to gain our confidence when we’re actually winning to realize that we are winning and to keep that up and not be afraid to win.” Priore said.

This has been the case all season, as Stony Brook has shown flashes of great play but have yet to play a consistent 90 minutes.

“We were playing in the first half and then the pressure mounting against us was greater and we were just playing the ball out rather than keeping the ball, which is what we do well,” Ryan said.

Stony Brook could not get the sweep of the week, and were the third team to lose to the UConn Huskies in the past week, after men’s soccer and football already did.

Starting a three-game road trip, the Seawolves fell 4-0 up in Storrs, led by a second-half enslaught that led to three Huskie goals in the final 20 minutes of the game.

Castanio did her best to keep the game close, but couldn’t stop everything, finishing with six saves.

Rachel Hill led the way for the Huskies, scoring a pair of goals which were her fifth and sixth of the season.

Andrea Plucenik added a goal and an assist, both of those being her first of the season, as the Seawolves fell to 2-4 on the season.

Hill buried the first goal of the game in the 39th minute on a feed from Plucenik and put it past Castanio to make it 1-0.

Hill then started the barrage of goals in the second half in the 70th minute off of a Samantha McGuire, and gave the Huskies a 2-0 lead.

Four minutes later, it was 3-0 UConn after Riley Houle fed Plucenik for another tally.

The Huskies put the icing on the cake in the 85th minute, when Julie Hubbard fed Tanya Altrui in a senior-to-freshman connection, to make it 4-0.

The Seawolves will look to get a win in the second game of their three-game road trip, when they head to Fairfield on Sunday for a 2 p.m. matchup in Connecticut.

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