Most teams that lose seven starters enter a rebuilding phase. Binghamton women’s soccer head coach Sarah McClellan, though, thinks her young and inexperienced squad has the pieces to compete for a postseason spot a year after the Bearcats fell short of the conference tournament.
“We do have a very young squad and that’s an exciting thing because there’s a lot of energy there,” she said. “The players are sponges, they want to try to implement to their game all our tactics and it does take a little bit of time so we have to stay positive and not get frustrated with any mistakes and not be afraid to make mistakes while we continue to progress.”
Co-captains junior Connie Gormley and senior Emma Kurth, return to anchor the middle, while seniors Carrie Martin and Stephanie Speirs return in goal.
According to Gormley, this year’s team will need to spread the ball as much as possible if they want to be successful.
“We’re such a big team so we like to play the ball around,” Gormley said. “We don’t really try and focus on one player. It’s more everybody gets in and out, we like to sub-in and get as many people onto the ball as we can and have as many people do as much as they can.”
Kurth is joined in the middle by junior Emily Nuss and sophomore Rebecca Raber, whose significant playing time last season could pay dividends this year.
All three forward starters from last season have graduated, creating larger roles for sophomore Katherine Corcoran, and seniors Kaitlyn Martin and Conor O’Brien, who will fill their spots.
“I feel very confident in our team’s abilities,” Martin said. “Even though they’re young, they’re very willing to learn, very excited to learn; and so taking that, they’re willing to learning and the learning curve that they have, I think that’s going to take us very far.
In the coaches preseason poll, Hartford, which finished 11-5-3 last season, was picked as the favorite. Stony Brook, the reigning conference champion, was tabbed to finish second. After falling one game short of the America East tournament with a 2-5-1 conference record in 2012, Binghamton placed seventh in the poll.
“We obviously know. We see it and it’s in the back of our minds,” Kurth said about the preseason poll. “But at the same time, it’s not going to affect how we think. We’re going into the season with the expectation to win and where people put us isn’t going to change that.”
The Bearcats began their 17-game slate at 1 p.m. on Sunday against Siena at Siena Field in one of three consecutive away games. Siena forward Andrea Pereira netted the game-winner in the 70th minute, leading the Saints (2-0) to a 2-1 win over Binghamton (0-1).
The Saints scored first, just nine minutes into the game, after midfielder Kayla Mancusi broke free down the middle and got the ball to forward Taylor D’Alfonso, who found the net inside the far right post.
Binghamton answered 13 minutes later with a goal of its own, delivered by Martin, with Kurth and freshman back Allison Mack assisting. The Bearcats won possession in tight defense after an airborne ball sailed down the field. Martin then popped the ball over the goalkeeper for Binghamton’s lone point.
Siena narrowly outshot Binghamton, 11-10, and BU junior Gaby Gold collected five saves in the second half alone. Siena accumulated five saves in all.
The Bearcats now look forward to nine non-conference contests before heading into eight America East matchups beginning at New Hampshire on Sept. 29.
Binghamton is set to return to action on Friday at Manhattan College. Play is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Gaelic Park in Riverdale, N.Y.