After a pair of hard-fought home games, the Binghamton women’s soccer team remains undefeated at the Bearcats Sports Complex this season. With the nonconference slate nearing a close, the Bearcats (6-2) defeated Wagner and Fairleigh Dickinson this weekend in two one-goal games. Among the major contributors to these victories was junior midfielder Ivana Pjetri, who assisted in every goal scored for the Bearcats.
On Thursday, the Bearcats were able to shut out the visiting Wagner Seahawks in a 1-0 victory. The game was an uphill battle for the Bearcats, where they were evenly matched with the Seahawks (2-5) for the entirety of the first half. The Wagner defense proved to be a challenge for BU.
“Wagner really pushed us tonight,’’ said BU head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “Their defensive pressure was really difficult to play through. It was something that we were not ready for at the get go, but it was a great game for us. We had to fight through, compete and make adjustments at the half. In the second half, I thought we really started to get into the flow with numbers around the ball and good supporting runs.”
In the second half, the Bearcats found their stride and applied continuous pressure to the Seahawks. In the 51st minute, after a pass outside of the box from freshman midfielder Olivia Meier, Pjetri sent a sharp ball tunneling toward the far post, clearing Wagner’s center back and bouncing into the six-yard box, where junior forward Essie Bonney was able to deliver the Bearcats a lead with the only goal of the game. This game-winning goal was Bonney’s fourth score of the season, tying her with freshman midfielder Olivia McKnight as the leading scorer on the team. Currently, the two are tied with sophomore forward Jasmine Colbert of Albany as the leading scorers in the conference.
BU was able to keep its foot on the gas and largely dominated the Seahawks for the remainder of the contest, holding a 14-8 shots margin for the last 45 minutes of the game.
Sunday’s matinee game against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights proved to be another tough victory for Binghamton. It was Senior Day for the Bearcats, and all six seniors started the game.
Coming off a winless stretch of games, the Knights (1-4-3) held onto a majority of the ball possession for the first 10 minutes of the game. However, the Bearcats soon found their stride. In the 26th minute, Pjetri was able to gain control of a clearing attempt and provide a through ball to sophomore forward Stefania Piantadosi, who had checked into the game merely four minutes prior. Piantadosi’s initial shot was blocked by junior goalkeeper Cassandra Marcoux of FDU, but she kept the pressure on and converted her second attempt into the goal that put BU on the board, giving the Bearcats a 1-0 halftime lead.
With several substitutions in the game, Bhattacharjee seemed to believe that his focus on a steady rotation was one of the keys to Binghamton’s success in the game.
“It’s pretty important, especially for a Sunday game,” Bhattacharjee said. “We really had to work and crawl in our game against Wagner. We typically go deeper on Sundays and we absolutely need that. We have depth in every position so we always have someone ready to show up.”
Going into the second half, the Knights appeared to gain back some of their initial momentum after a saved penalty kick from junior midfielder Dora Hayes and an equalizing goal in the 52nd minute. However, the Bearcats stayed persistent and continued to apply pressure to the FDU defense.
In the 61st minute, after Piantadosi was able to draw a 35-yard direct free kick, Pjetri delivered the free kick toward the far post where Hayes was in position to head it past the keeper, giving the Bearcats the lead and eventual victory over Fairleigh Dickinson.
“We actually talked about this exact moment in the preseason, what happens when someone misses a penalty,” Bhattacharjee said. “If there is someone who feels like they have failed in that moment, you’re probably gonna lose them for the entire game. What I love is that our team lifted Dora right up in that particular moment and she was able to stay plugged in and give us the game-winner.”
The Bearcats will have their final nonconference game of the season this upcoming Wednesday against Cornell, and Bhattacharjee is hoping to improve the team and continue their winning streak.
“It was a little bit of a choppy game today, we had to deal with a lot of physicality,” Bhattacharjee said. “What I love is that our team rose up to the challenge and that is critical. We were able to make adjustments and that is a sign of a good-quality team.”
Kickoff against Cornell is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18 from Berman Field in Ithaca, New York.