Liam Daly's house in Shoreham isn't that far from Stony Brook's campus, a quick trip across the Expressway getting it done in maybe 25 minutes. That's a major reason why Daly spent a lot of time growing up going to games on SBU's campus, but he never gave much thought to the idea that he'd one day end up playing there.
"I actually wasn't looking at anything close to home to start off," the Shoreham-Wading River junior said of his recruiting process. "I was thinking of maybe getting off the Island a little bit."
There's a big difference between watching games as a fan and seeing everything that a school has to offer, though. Daly didn't consider Stony Brook at all until the Seawolves reached out to him on Sept. 1, showing him that he was a top target for them. He agreed to take a visit without any real expectations, because after all, what could he see from a campus that he hadn't seen before?
Everything changed in a hurry.
"When I went on the visit, I saw a lot of stuff that I'd never seen before," Daly said. "It's an amazing campus with an amazing coaching staff, and after that visit, I kind of knew. I had a feeling and I went for it."
Just like that, his recruitment came to an end with a verbal commitment to Stony Brook, the first player to choose the Seawolves in the 2020 class and the first Empire 2020 commit. The recruiting process can get a little tricky for goalies, with most schools usually opting to only take one per class. That means that there's a limited amount of spots available, and while that can make some players nervous, Daly opted to trust the process and hope that everything fell into place, which it did.
"It was definitely a little stressful because there are a lot of good goalies out there, but you just have to stay positive and keep working at it, and everything worked out so perfectly for me," Daly said.
"Liam's a vocal, spirited player with a lot of heart and leadership," Empire 2020 coach Luke Daquino said. "His consistent high level of goalie play elevates our team to the next level, and we're fired up for him to have found a spot at a great school like Stony Brook."
Daly is used to being poised under pressure. It's the most important requirement for the position, and he's acquitted himself well when put into tough situations before. As a freshman, he was the backup goalie for the Wildcats, and the second time he saw the field that season was... in the Long Island championships. With SWR down big to Cold Spring Harbor, he started warming up, and while he admittedly got nervous, he was thrust into action two minutes into the second half.
"I'm pretty sure I got sniped right away," Daly said with a laugh. "But I made a couple of saves, and that gave me some confidence. Last year, I was the full-time starter as a sophomore, and that definitely helped me a lot as a player. I got shots from the varsity and coaches in eighth grade when I'd stay for varsity practice and I got a lot of shots in practice as a freshman, but last year helped me so much because there are a lot of great players in each class. I just had to stop the ball and play my best."
That best worked out well for him, especially when he followed it up by playing well for Empire, and launched him onto schools' recruiting radars. He has an advanced mental grasp of the game, helped in some part by the fact that he also plays a pair of mentally-grueling sports in golf and wrestling. It's not a surprise that he's considering studying psychology in college, either, especially when he explains how he views the game.
"One of the reasons why I love being a goalie is trying to figure out what opponents do before they even do it," Daly explained. "It's like an offensive coordinator and a quarterback - you're trying to predict their tendencies. I'll watch the other teams do shooting drills and passing drills and pick out numbers of guys who are stronger or weaker on their off-hand. Golf and wrestling help me mentally, too, because when you're in net, you have to keep your composure no matter what. It's the same as in wrestling. I try not to show a lot of emotion during the game, but when it's over, that's when it's time for emotions to come out."
A commitment to a Division I school is probably a good time to celebrate, too.