Seeded second and pitted against a team it had beaten soundly last month, the Binghamton men’s lacrosse team appeared to be the favorite to advance to the America East tournament’s finals round.
But third-seeded UMBC had other plans.
Fueled by the bite for vengeance after their 13-7 loss last month, the Retrievers (8-6, 3-2 AE) dealt BU back in kind on Thursday night with a 16-10 upset at Stony Brook’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. The decision sealed Binghamton’s post-season record to 0-2 since 2011.
The Bearcats (7-8, 4-1 AE) were unable to stop UMBC’s initial attack, as the Retrievers opened the game with four consecutive goals on their way to a 6-1 first-quarter lead. BU also faltered on faceoffs, winning only six of 30 draws against one of the top-20 faceoff specialists in the nation, according to the NCAA. With a lack of ground balls to boot, Binghamton struggled to gain possession throughout the match, and were outshot, 50-20.
“We just didn’t have the ball. They controlled the ball a little better than last time,” BU head coach Scott Nelson said. “We had three possessions in the whole fourth quarter.”
Despite their struggles, the Bearcats battled throughout the contest. Scoring on four of its five man-up opportunities and putting 10 out of 20 shots in the back of the net, the Bearcats’ offense remained resilient.
Midfielder Michael Antinozzi performed especially well for the BU offense. In his final collegiate game, the senior scored four goals, a season-best, to lead the team. Senior attack Matt Springer also played an impressive outing, netting two goals to put a period on his record-setting career, in which he recorded 126 goals. The offense would go as far as to put the Bearcats within one goal in the final quarter, but BU’s possession struggles plagued them again, and the Bearcats only possessed the ball for 12 seconds in the game’s final 20 minutes.
“We expected them to come back, we knew they would,” Nelson said of his squad’s late comeback. “We just ran out of gas.”
With 12 seniors playing in their last game Thursday, the loss proved to be emotional – especially after the Bearcats’ dominant America East run in their regular season. But spirits remain hopeful for a Binghamton lacrosse team that has made major strides in 2014.
“[The effort of the seniors was] tremendous. I couldn’t be prouder to be their coach,” Nelson said. “We took another step as a program, and that’s pretty exciting.”
Although BU will be hit hard by graduation, with those nine starting positions regularly taken by seniors vacated, next year’s team will certainly look to compete for an America East title again in 2015. With the team’s point-leader junior Tucker Nelson returning to the Bearcat attack and 10 incoming freshmen joining the roster according to LaxPower.com, the team at least has the manpower and leadership required for the program to take further steps.
“Four wins in a conference is our best in years … we’re competing with our peers, and we’re getting there,” Nelson said. “We’ve got a lot of guys to replace leadership-wise, but hopefully we’re going to continue to improve.”