To many coaches and players, preseason polls mean nothing because of the ample opportunities sports leave for teams to buck trends and expectations. So it came as no surprise when Sarah McClellan, head coach of the Binghamton University women’s soccer team, said her team would ignore its No. 8 America East preseason rank.
But now, even after beating the University of Vermont, 2-1, in the season finale, the Bearcats (8-8-1, 2-5-1 AE) have finished right where conference coaches slated them in August — eighth and on the outside of the America East tournament.
Senior forward Sarah Furminger and junior forward Conor O’Brien scored a goal apiece against the Catamounts, pushing Binghamton’s goal total to five in its final two games. But an inability to find the back of the net regularly enough in conference play precluded the Bearcats from their first conference win until the penultimate game of the regular season.
Dating back to the end of non-conference play, Binghamton had scored just three goals over a nine-game stretch. The Bearcats tied or lost by one goal in six of those matches, seeming to prove that if the offense could have mustered a goal here or there, this season could have ended differently.
“It’s a shame we aren’t going on to the playoffs because we held our own against every team this year,” McClellan said, according to a press release.
Binghamton more than held its own against its opponents through the season’s first leg, rolling to a 6-2 start. Starting her final campaign on a torrid start, Furminger scored five goals through the first six games. Three of those early goals were game-winners.
Furminger and fellow senior forward Jamie Holliday were on pace to set single-season records in goals and assists, respectively, and the Bearcats were cruising.
But when Furminger stopped scoring, the Binghamton offense sputtered as well.
After Furminger’s 61st-minute goal defeated Cornell University on Sept. 12, just two Bearcats scored over the next 850 minutes of play, with senior midfielder Brittany Walsh registering two of the team’s three goals during the offense’s dismal stretch.
Then Binghamton exploded for three goals against University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Oct. 18, shutting out the ninth-place Retrievers (1-11-5, 0-5-3 AE) in what was a must-win at the start of the day. But just hours before kickoff, University at Albany tied the University of Maine to lock up the America East’s final playoff berth and effectively eliminate Binghamton from postseason contention.
As expected, the senior class led the way over the course of the year. Furminger finished with a team-high of 15 points and six goals to go with three assists while Holliday led the team with four assists. Walsh finished with nine points.
Overall, Binghamton is set to return just three starters next season in junior back Liz Cusato, sophomore back Connie Gormley and junior midfielder Emma Kurth. But key bench players O’Brien, junior forward Kaitlyn Martin, sophomore midfielder Emily Nuss and freshmen midfielders Katie Corcoran and Rebecca Raber are all expected to be back.
That group will look to learn from this season with the hope of returning to the America East tournament in 2013.