Despite the absence of a number of its key players, the Binghamton University men’s soccer team came out on top in a 3-2 win over the Bucknell Bison on a chilly Tuesday night at the Bearcats Sports Complex.
With a quarterfinal match of the America East conference tournament against the University of New Hampshire approaching, Binghamton head coach Paul Marco saw the non-conference game against Bucknell (7-8-2) as an opportunity to rest some of his key players. Among those on the bench at kickoff were captain and junior Ryan Walter ‘ who had to sit out due to yellow card accumulation ‘ and redshirt-freshman goalie Chris Hayen.
The active Bearcats (6-6-4) got off to a quick start as senior Kyle Manscuk capitalized on a pass from sophomore Austin Hughes with just over two minutes gone to give Binghamton a 1-0 lead. Manscuk’s fourth goal of the year came on a night when he also took over the team’s captain duties with the absence of Walter.
‘I thought right from the first whistle we did a very good job,’ but was also quick to note that ‘both teams ‘ as the game settled in ‘ kept attacking each other,’ coach Marco said of his team’s quick start.
As the clock ticked past the 35-minute mark, Bucknell evened the score as senior Tommy McCabe aimed his corner kick from the left side of the field into the middle of the Bearcat box where it connected with the head of junior Luke Joyner and was sent into the Binghamton net.
Just over five minutes later, Binghamton sophomore Adam Whitehead drew a penalty kick as he took a foot to the face inside the Bucknell box. Bison junior goalie Marc Hartmann guessed wrong and dove to his right as Whitehead rocketed the ball left and into the net, giving the Bearcats their second lead of the game, 2-1. Whitehead’s penalty kick was the first made for Binghamton since Barry Neville’s against Albany on Oct. 27, 2007.
Once again, however, the Bucknell attack pulled even ‘ this time on a free kick from just outside the Bearcat box only minutes after Whitehead’s penalty shot. McCabe created a diversion with his fake past the ball, and junior Andrew Powell bulleted a shot past freshman goalie Anthony Sokalski and into the top right corner of the Binghamton goal.
The two teams accounted for four goals in the first half and were knotted at two as they headed into the locker rooms.
‘I was a little disappointed coming in at halftime that we had conceded two goals,’ Marco said. ‘The defending perhaps for both teams should have been a little bit better in the first half, that’s why you probably saw those four goals.’
When asked what the game plan was following the intermission, Marco simply said, ‘Stop the bleeding. I’m sure that Bucknell said the same thing.’
Both teams did stop the bleeding as they came out early in the second half. But the Bison allowed one more trickle.
With less than 34 minutes to go in the game, Binghamton broke through for the decisive goal as redshirt-freshman Tommy Klim crossed a ball from the left side to sophomore Jake Keegan, who headed it into the Bucknell net to give Binghamton a 3-2 lead.
‘Great ball in by Klim. I just tried to drift to the back post and I was able to get my head on it and put it away,’ said Keegan, who was humble about netting the game-winner. ‘It’s a team effort and the first two goals were just as important as the third one.’
‘He [Klim] played a fantastic ball across. It couldn’t have been a better ball and Jake did a superb job finishing it,’ Marco said. ‘It was great for the two of them, because we need those two guys to be special this upcoming weekend [against New Hampshire].’
In the final 20 minutes, Bucknell had its share of chances to draw to a third tie of the match. McCabe sent two shots wide right of the Binghamton net, the latter of which came closer and rolled past the outstretched arms of the Bearcat net minder but also past the far post.
Binghamton followed with two attempts of its own to extend the lead, but Hartmann stopped each with impressive efforts.
With 30 seconds remaining, Bucknell found itself with one more opportunity. Binghamton sophomore Felipe Diaz whiffed on a clearing attempt deep in his own zone and Bison junior Josh Plump took the ball and fired at the Bearcat net, but the ball sailed high and over the crossbar.
Despite the numerous attempts by both teams in the final minutes, Binghamton held on for the 3-2 win.
‘I thought our guys did well. Pretty much every player who played today contributed,’ Marco said. He also noted that not only was he glad to be able to rest a portion of his team, he was also happy he was able to assess some players who had not had many opportunities to play earlier in the season.
‘I thought Anthony [Sokalski] ‘ outside of the two goals ‘ did a good job in goal, and he’s a player who we hadn’t seen much of,’ he said. He was also pleased with the play of redshirt-freshman Kevin Bunce.
The five goals scored Tuesday tied a record for most combined goals at the Bearcats Sports Complex, along with two other wins: a 3-2 win over Syracuse last year and a 5-0 win over Maine in 2007.