As the Binghamton women’s soccer team opened its season on Thursday night against St. Bonaventure, the team entered into a new era with many new faces on the team. Among those new faces is freshman midfielder Olivia McKnight, who started her collegiate career with a bang, scoring a goal and recording an assist in her first appearance as a Bearcat. Behind McKnight, Binghamton shut out the Bonnies 2-0 in its 2019 opener at the Bearcats Sports Complex.
“She obviously was very impactful, it’s great to get that first goal, that first assist,” said BU head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “To get a goal and an assist in her freshman start, what a beginning, so really well done by her.”
After coming off a pair of preseason scrimmage victories, the Bearcats (1-1) opened their season on the right note Thursday night against the Bonnies (1-1). The Bearcats held onto 62 percent of the total possession and held St. Bonaventure to only four shots for the totality of the match. BU converted two out of its 20 shots into goals to secure its victory.
The first goal was scored in the 18th minute by sophomore forward Stefania Piantadosi off a rebound from McKnight. The goal was the first of Piantadosi’s Binghamton career.
The Bearcats kept their foot on the pedal after the subsequent kickoff, and junior midfielder Dora Hayes was able to push through the middle to deliver a through ball to McKnight. McKnight capitalized on the opportunity, scoring her first career goal and doubling the Bearcats’ lead just 34 seconds after the first goal.
“As a team, we take a lot of pride in the key moments of the game, being strong in the first five minutes of the half and the last five minutes of the half,” Bhattacharjee said. “Statistically, at any level of soccer, more goals are scored at these times, as well as right after a goal is scored. What I loved is that we scored a goal and right away scored a second one, so we didn’t take our foot off the pedal and didn’t give them a chance to come in.”
While the Bonnies stopped the bleeding after the second goal, they failed to find the back of the Binghamton net. Sophomore goalkeeper Haylee Poltorak pitched a shutout, with just one save necessary.
On Sunday afternoon, however, the Bearcats failed to see the same result on the road against Georgia. The Bulldogs (1-1) of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) proved to be a challenging opponent, defeating Binghamton 4-0 in the game. Despite the lopsided score, the Bearcats held their own for much of the first half.
McKnight nearly scored her second career goal early on in the game, but the shot went wide and the game remained scoreless until the the 27th minute of play, when the Bulldogs broke the ice. BU, however, was able to hold its competitors at bay for the remainder of the half, heading to the locker room trailing 1-0. But the second half spelled trouble for the Bearcats, as they conceded the second goal just over the hour mark and then an additional two within 12 minutes of each other.
“We were playing well at first,” Bhattacharjee said. “We knew we had to play Georgia a little bit higher than we had in the first half, because we were giving them a little too much space. The second goal was a bit of a backbreaker, so at that point we had to take some more risks, but I give credit to Georgia, because they were able to secure opportunities when they were presented to them, which resulted in the tough scoreline.”
Much of the first half defensive success in the game could be attributed to strong play by Poltorak and junior defender Erin Theiller. Poltorak recorded seven saves in the game despite conceding four goals to a talented Georgia attack, and Theiller always seemed to find herself in position to break up excellent scoring opportunities for the Bulldogs. Though things eventually crumbled for Binghamton, Bhattacharjee said she will be looking for a similar effort against the team’s next opponent, St. Francis, in the hopes of a better result.
“Certainly we will be talking about our back line shape and talking about being more of the aggressors,” Bhattacharjee said. “For us, it’s important that we get back to our style where we dictate the pace of the game, and if we can do that, then I know we can get a positive result on Friday.”
Kickoff against the Terriers (0-1) is set for 1 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30 from Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, New York.