For all intents and purposes, the Binghamton University men’s soccer team’s season starts now.
After concluding non-conference play with a 3-0 shutout over Adelphi University last Saturday, the Bearcats (4-5) will look to build on that momentum as they begin conference play this Saturday against University of New Hampshire.
BU junior back Robbie Hughes had two goals in the win at Adelphi, while senior forward Jake Keegan added his eighth goal of the season to put the game on ice. Keegan now leads the America East and sits at seventh in the nation with an average of 0.89 goals per game. His average of 2.11 points per contest also leads the conference and is seventh in the country.
“I think coming off the Adelphi game we’re in good position to start the conference season,” Keegan said. “We expect a quality team [in New Hampshire]. After the past two years, we obviously know it’s going to be a challenge but we’re confident that, if we play well and execute, we can come away with a win.”
The Wildcats (4-3-2) also took care of Adelphi in their last non-conference matchup, winning 2-1 in overtime on Wednesday.
Last season, New Hampshire beat Binghamton 3-0 on Oct. 8. The year before, they knocked the Bearcats out of contention with a 1-0 victory in an America East quarterfinal game.
Binghamton is 6-5-2 against New Hampshire all-time.
“The match against UNH is always a competitive one,” Binghamton head coach Paul Marco said. “They’re usually a stingy team. They don’t tend to give up many chances. I think you’ll see some entertaining soccer on Saturday night.”
Five Wildcats have scored two goals, and freshman Angel Maldonado and junior Jordan Thomas each have an additional assist to lead the team with five points apiece.
Binghamton senior midfielder Adam Whitehead leads the Bearcats in assists with four, while Keegan and junior forward Tommy Moon each have three.
The Bearcats have had their fair share of ups and downs this season. They’ve only been able to string together two consecutive wins once so far. But while their non-conference record sits at sub-.500, it may not convey their potential in conference play.
“I think we have a good team,” Marco said. “We just need to show it every game. It’s one thing to think that you’re good, and it’s another thing to go out and prove it everyday. And I think that the team is starting to realize that.”
In four of its five losses this season, Binghamton has lost by a single goal. The key, according to Keegan, is to capitalize on missed opportunities.
“For the most part, the games are always so close,” he said. “So I think each moment, each chance, each clearance, they all matter so much. What we can build upon is just trying to execute in those moments. I think we’re so close to being a team that goes on a long winning streak and hopefully we’ll be able to do that coming up for conference play.”
The Bearcats and Wildcats are scheduled to start conference action at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Bearcats Sports Complex.