Already, the Binghamton University men’s soccer team has proved resiliency will be the key to success this season.
The Bearcats (2-2-0) kicked off their 2012 campaign on Aug. 24 with a bitter 3-2 overtime loss to host Colgate University. After senior forward Jake Keegan’s unassisted goal in the 87th minute sent the game to sudden death overtime, the Red Raiders (1-1-1) needed only 56 seconds to finish off the Bearcats.
From there, Binghamton headed home to battle Syracuse University in a nonconference matchup on Aug. 28. After a scoreless first half, Syracuse (2-1-0) used a goal by Jordan Vale in the 58th minute to slip by Binghamton, 1-0.
After a 2011 campaign that included seven one-goal losses, Binghamton, which returns nine of its 11 starters from last season’s finale against Boston University, is familiar with the feeling of letting tight games slip away.
“Obviously, it’s hard to lose a game when you’re right in it the whole entire game, but you just have to keep pushing the next practice and get ready for the next game,” senior back Trey Jasenski said. “We just look to the next game after each one.”
Putting their first two games behind them, the Bearcats headed to the University at Buffalo last Friday, earning an impressive 2-0 victory over the Bulls (1-1-1). After another uneventful first half, Binghamton senior defender Austin Hughes’ header from Keegan in the 50th minute put the Bearcats on the board. Keegan gave Binghamton some added insurance in the 87th minute with his second goal of the season, the 19th of his career. With a goal in the Bearcats’ 2-1 win over Army on Monday, Keegan took sole possession of the program’s Division I record for goals scored with 20.
“[Keegan] scores a goal, he misses a goal, he just wants another shot at it. Regardless,” Binghamton head coach Paul Marco said. “He’s a got a great knack for finding the back of the net.”
In the America East preseason poll, Binghamton tied with University at Albany at sixth. Stony Brook University received six first-place votes to finish atop the poll, while Boston University received two first-place votes to finish second.
Marco, who is entering his 11th season as head coach of the men’s team, said he believes his team’s resiliency will determine its success.
“After our next game, we’ll have almost played a third of our season,” he said. “So you can’t really look back and say what went wrong there, you always have to focus on the moment, prepare for the future and I think our staff has done a great job of that and I think our guys are responding quite well to it.”
The Bearcats are scheduled to travel to North Carolina on Sept. 14 to play UNC-Wilmington and Appalachian State University in a tournament, highlighting their nonconference play. They are set to start America East play on Sept. 29 at home against the University of New Hampshire.
Binghamton’s roster includes 10 freshmen and a transfer, with only 10 upperclassmen on the team versus 22 underclassmen. But after missing the American East tournament in 2011 for the first time since 2002, Marco said the Bearcats will look to the upperclassmen for experience and leadership during the season.
“I think we try and set a world-class standard within our team in every area,” he said. “On the field, in the locker room, certainly in the classroom, and I think that our upperclassmen buy into that. They own it. They understand it and expect it.”
With the upperclassmen leading the way, Binghamton will look to capitalize more during games with the hope that the result is not another missed opportunity at the season’s close.
“Soccer is a game of moments,” Marco said. “And in the moment, are you going to seize it and embrace it? I think our team will be physically and strategically prepared and then it’ll just be up to the boys to go out there and execute, and I think they’re up to the challenge.”