December 4, 2012
A LESSON IN LONGEVITY
Coach Ryan continues to bring spark, teaching ways to Stony Brook
By Matthew Levine
|Sue Ryan, talking to associate coach Steve Welham, during a match, has coached Stony Brook for 28 years.
Photo courtesy of Stony Brook University
Being a coach at any level is no easy task. Coaches are expected to bring success quickly and sometimes only get a few seasons to impress before being replaced. The Chelsea FC situation, albeit an extreme, is one showcase of the revolving door that can exist in the profession.
That is why what Sue Ryan is doing as the head coach of Stony Brook University’s Women’s team is so special. No one would be wrong to double-check when they find out how long she has been in charge.
When the Seawolves fell to ninth-ranked University of Maryland in the NCAA Division I women's tournament, it marked the en of Ryan’s 28th season. yes take a moment and read it again, 28th season in charge. Ryan joked that she was precocious and started coaching in her teens.
Ryan has overseen many changes in the game since her first season at Stony Brook.
“Players are more athletic," she said. "They are bigger, faster and stronger. They also have a higher technical ability."
Until this past season Stony Brook had never won the America East Championship or made an appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Seawolves accomplished both this season.
Even though Stony Brook seemed to just come up short the last few seasons, Ryan never thought it was something the team could not accomplish.
“The approach for every season is similar," she said. "We want to go deep in the tournament.”
After the Seawolves reached the NCAA tournament, Ryan did not feel a weight was lifted from her shoulders.
“Not a weight, but it was very rewarding. It’s a fragile game, the best team doesn’t always win,” she said. “It’s tough to win, win on the road and win consistently at this level.”
The fact that this was the Seawolves’ most successful season under Ryan really did not come as a surprise when she was asked what made this team different.
“The model was our family vs. your team," Ryan said. "It was about the whole being greater than the part. This has been the best team chemistry. We also won games by committee; you couldn’t just stop one player."
Junior forward Larissa Nysch, who led the Seawolves in goals this season with nine, took away the same things as Ryan from this season’s team.
“We were definitely a family. It could get catty and there could be tension, but off the field I can call every player my sister,“ she said.
When asked about Nysch’s goals, Ryan noted they were certainly one part to Stony Brook’s success. Ryan also stressed how this team was a true collective unit.
“I can count 10 players who had game-changing moments," she said. "We had a good infusion of youth and experience. [Sa’sha] Kershaw was as good as any captain I’ve had. Ashley [Castanio] in goal, even though she was like a freshman as a junior with missed games. We were a good team with very good back-ups.”
With Stony Book’s breakthrough season, the Seawolves will aim even higher come next fall.
“Higher expectations, absolutely. From what we do day-to-day to getting back to the tournament and moving deeper in it,” Ryan said.
“We already started training to be 2013 America East Champions,” Nysch said. “We want to get back to the same NCAA tournament game and win. It’s our dream goal and to come so close this season, we just want it really bad for next year.”
Confidence also will play a role when the Seawolves take the field next year. It helped Nysch find the back of the net nine times.
“My goal for this season was six goals, I knew that was attainable. My dream goal was to score 11 [her favorite number] goals. I really just want to play minutes and help the team win, but trying for eleven again next season.
Nysch acknowledged the importance of being a player under Ryan.
“She is different than any other coach I’ve had," she said. "She really wants you to learn stuff and everything has a purpose. She’s the main reason I came here.”
Nysch, her teammates and new recruits don’t have to worry about seeing Ryan not on the sidelines for the Seawolves for many years to come.
“I still love it, I’m not walking away anytime soon,” she said. "When I recruit incoming freshman, I commit to seeing it out all four years with them.”