After the first 10 minutes of Sunday’s game against the Maine Black Bears, it seemed that all the stars were aligned for the Binghamton women’s soccer team to successfully rebound from last week’s shutout loss to Stony Brook. Not only was BU (8-4-2, 2-2-1 America East) facing a team that has gone 0-4-1 in its last five games entering Sunday, but the Bearcats pounced early, with junior midfielder Sarah Dibble scoring the matchup’s opening goal in the eighth minute. However, after a strong first half, not much else went right for Binghamton in the remainder of the matchup, resulting in a disappointing 3-1 loss.
“I felt we got off to a really good start,” said Binghamton head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “We played with a good tempo and had some good attacking moments in the first nine to 10 minutes of the game.”
Dibble capitalized on a blocked shot to knock her own rebound into the left side of the net for her second score of the season. Bhattacharjee called this goal a “reward” for his team having the “good attacking opportunities” early in the game.
According to Bhattacharjee, Maine (5-5-1, 1-3-1 AE) made some tactical adjustments, including playing their forwards higher against BU’s center backs, that led to the momentum shift in the game. The Black Bears’ scoring began in the 38th minute, when freshman midfielder Olivia Chalifoux scored on a breakaway after the Black Bears moved through a BU offsides trap.
“The first goal looked tight,” Bhattacharjee said. “I have to look at the video, but it looked like someone was offsides and it also looked like there was a foul right before that through ball was played. I thought that was just kind of an unfortunate break.”
Although the Black Bears didn’t score again until the 77th minute, Bhattacharjee said the momentum changed long before that.
“I thought they had good energy and they started out-competing us for the 50-50 balls in the last 20 minutes of the first half,” he said. “That’s where the game kind of shifted. In the second half, they still maintained a high level of energy and a fighting spirit. We didn’t quite match that until we were down [2-1], but by then it was too late.”
Maine’s go-ahead goal came after junior goalkeeper Mackenzie Hanna made a foot save off a Black Bear breakaway. However, senior forward Beate Naglestad was able to net an open far-post header as the Black Bears crashed on the corner.
Sunday was Hanna’s first start of the season and her 11 saves marked a career high, the most for any Bearcat goalie in three seasons. Hanna got the call over sophomore goalkeeper Haylee Poltorak, who has six clean sheets this season and 0.967 goals against average, good for fourth-best in the league. The change between the posts may have been unexpected to fans, but Bhattacharjee downplayed its significance.
“Hanna’s had a good week at training and she’s been really good with her communication and organization,” Bhattacharjee said. “We gave her an opportunity today. She made a couple of key plays and key saves.”
Bhattacharjee declined to comment on the long-term situation at the position or who would start next week. He said he has confidence in all three of the team’s keepers, all of whom have different skill sets. It seems that the starter may be determined by which keeper is better suited to face the strengths of the opposing team.
Binghamton has now lost two matches in a row, and Bhattacharjee said his team must have short-term memory and put the struggles behind them. Thursday’s game against Hartford is now critical to the team’s playoff seeding. The top two teams in the AE receive a first-round bye in the playoffs and host semifinals, and the next two host quarterfinals. Should the Bearcats fall to the Hawks (6-5-1, 3-1-0 AE), their chances of hosting a playoff game will look bleak.
“Collectively as a group, we have to come together in terms of knowing what we expect, what we want and how we want to play,” Bhattacharjee said. “I look at this match and the Stony Brook match and we didn’t really compete the way we were capable of. We have to bring that energy, effort, fight and spirit every single day.”
Kickoff against Hartford is set for 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17 at the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.