Trailing 1-0 in the final two minutes of a matchup against Lehigh, junior midfielder Noah Luescher approached the ball for the Bighamton men’s soccer team, set just a few feet outside the 18-yard box, for a free kick. Luescher chipped the ball over a wall of Lehigh defensemen and into the back of the net to tie the game for the Bearcats with less than two minutes to go in the second half of the game. Then, just 44 seconds into overtime, sophomore midfielder Andrew McDonnell converted the rebound of a shot taken by Luescher into an overtime winner.
“I saw it kind of pop out and I just bolted to it and got my foot on it, and into the back of the net,” McDonnell said.
The Bearcats (2-4) were unable to get onto the scoreboard until the final two minutes of regulation, but stunned the Mountain Hawks (3-2) in an overtime thriller, 2-1.
“I really credit my teammates,” McDonnell said. “We’ve had a few really tough games recently, but we’ve really been staying positive and get to work every day, and you can see through this game we didn’t put our heads down when they scored. We got right back to work, we got the two goals and I’m really proud of the guys for how we responded.”
Luescher came off the bench in Tuesday’s game and logged a season-low 17 minutes in the game, but his impact was clearly felt with a goal and an assist, both in pivotal moments in the game.
“[He] and [graduate student defender Stephen] McKenna have been doing a great job leading the group by example first,” said Binghamton head coach Paul Marco. “So the things that they’re doing and saying to the guys, it’s terrific. So when we bring a guy like him in, whose quality is special, and then we get a free kick, everybody in the bench and around the field is thinking, ‘This one’s in.’”
Luescher’s goal was his fourth of the season and his third to be scored directly from a free kick.
“He’s a great leader for us,” McDonnell said. “Watching him come onto the field is definitely an energy boost for the guys, you know. Having him on the field makes everyone play better.”
For McDonnell, this was his second game-winning goal against Lehigh in his career. McDonnell, however, did not credit himself for the overtime goal, and instead praised his teammates for battling all night.
The first half of the game was a defensive battle, as both teams were held without a goal. Just five shots were taken, with Lehigh holding a 3-2 advantage in the half and finishing with a 9-8 margin. Marco credited several backs, including McKenna and freshman defender Michael Bush, for having a significant impact on the game defensively.
“I thought it was a collective team effort defending,” Marco said. “We still got to get a little better at communicating, because [Lehigh] dragged us around a little bit. We probably marked men too much tonight, so we’ll try to help the guys straighten out this week as we prepare for Monmouth.”
Lehigh scored the first goal of the game in the second half, with sophomore forward Josh Luchini putting the Mountain Hawks on the board in the 60th minute. Fourteen minutes later, the Bearcats subbed in Luescher, and three minutes after that, McDonnell entered the game, marking his first appearance of the season. Both of BU’s goal scorers made late entrances into the game, but capitalized on their limited opportunity to contribute.
“We really needed that win,” Luescher said. “We were 1-4, and now we’re 2-4, and if we win again on Saturday we are 3-4, and all of sudden it doesn’t look that bad. So it was a great win for the morale of the whole team, for the mood in the team, and I think it was very important today, and I was lucky to score again today. So yeah, I’m glad with the outcome of the game.”
The Bearcats are looking forward to Saturday for their homecoming game against Monmouth. Expecting their largest crowd of the season, the team has an opportunity to play while under the spotlight.
“Homecoming is one of the highlights of the year,” Luescher said. “There [are] so many people coming out, the atmosphere is just great and everything is just buzzing for the game on Saturday. We’re just looking forward to it, and Monmouth is a good team, but we should get a result against them. We really have to go after it and get to 3-4, and we are really excited for that.”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday from the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.