On a cloudy, windy Sunday afternoon, the University of Maine Black Bears and Stony Brook University Sea Wolves battled on Alumni Field to win a shot at playing in the America East conference championship game.
After playing a tie game since the 22:06 mark, freshman forward Sarah Darmanin kicked the game-winning chip shot over UMaine senior goalkeeper Meagan Price-Leibenzeder in the 82nd minute, boosting the Sea Wolves over the Black Bears by a score of 2-1.
Stony Brook had to come from behind in this contest to win, as the Black Bears got on the board very early in the game.
UMaine junior midfielder Nikki Misener assisted sophomore forward Jordan Pellerin only 45 seconds into the game, giving UMaine a 1-0 lead. Pellerin led the Black Bears offense with three shots, two shots on goal and one goal.
UMaine had the advantage over Stony Brook in size and speed, and the Black Bears had many more opportunities to score during the course of the game than the Sea Wolves. This was due in part to a great defensive effort led by freshman back Noelle Leon-Palmer. But Stony Brook was able to capitalize on their few opportunities they were afforded, scoring on two of their four total shots on goal. UMaine recorded nine shots on goal, only putting one past junior goalkeeper Ashley Castanio. Stony Brook head coach Sue Ryan said her team is no stranger from come from behind games.
“I can’t say enough about Maine,” Ryan said. “We have so much respect for them, their players and coaching staff. They’re such a competitive team that just keeps coming at you. They did a good job putting pressure on us today, coming out and scoring an early goal. As a team, we’ve had to come from behind and overcome adversity, and I think that has been helping us in games like this.”
Stony Brook was able to tie the game at 22:06 when freshman midfielder Kristen Baker kicked the ball high in the air, which took a large bounce over a couple of UMaine defenders. Price-Leibenzeder jumped up to try and tap it out, but it sailed over her hand and into the net to tie the game at one goal apiece.
“I don’t know if it was a miscommunication, or if we let the ball bounce,” said UMaine head coach Scott Atherley. “One of the things we always talk about defensively is that you can’t let the ball bounce. Bad things happen when the ball bounces, and it did. But it happened, and I thought our team was resilient — we just kind of rode the wave a little bit and we got back on our feet.”
Thirty seconds before halftime, UMaine junior forward Maggie Malone and sophomore forward Charlene Achille had two prime opportunities to give UMaine a lead, with the ball sitting right on the goal-line at one point, but the Sea Wolves kept the ball at bay and the game went into the half tied 1-1.
UMaine came out strong in the second half, keeping the ball in their possession for the majority of the period. Pellerin had a close-up opportunity when Castanio stopped a previous shot, but she kicked the rebound shot wide right.
Another opportunity came for UMaine when Stony Brook freshman forward Raven Edwards committed a foul, giving UMaine a free kick, but the free kick was headed wide right of the goal.
It was during the 82nd minute when Darmanin chipped the ball into the net to give the Sea Wolves the lead for good.
Even though UMaine looked like they outplayed Stony Brook, at the end of the game, the Sea Wolves were able to get the goals. Atherley said the end result doesn’t always reflect the effort given.
“That’s the game. That’s life. The outcome doesn’t always reflect the performance. I just told my players that was the best performance of the year, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach,” Atherley said. “That was one of our goals going into the game is that we want to get better every day, and when your best performance is your last one, that’s very gratifying. We’re all disappointed in the outcome, but again it’s a reflection of life and you don’t always get what you deserve.”
Ryan said the team’s depth was key to the team’s ability to keep up with UMaine and gain the chance to win. Stony Brook used eight substitutes as opposed to UMaine’s five.
“We’re really happy with our depth this year. I was giving some rest to our players up front, and I think keeping our players fresh was one of the keys to being able to sustain some pressure up front,” Ryan said.
Both coaches were happy with the effort their teams gave this season.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our players, I couldn’t be more proud of the progress we made, and I think this just adds to the incentive to work hard in the offseason and come back for another opportunity like this,” Atherley said.
“We had to win in our last game in the quarterfinal, and we’re going to have to win on the road again. It just is what it is. We’re very fortunate and happy to be continuing our season,” Ryan said.
UMaine finished their season with a 7-7-3 record, and Stony Brook improves to 11-7-3. The Sea Wolves with play at the University of Hartford Nov. 4 at 3 p.m. for the America East championship.