A year removed from an early exit in the America East (AE) Tournament, the Binghamton women’s basketball team is still looking to forge its identity under second-year head coach Bethann Shapiro Ord. The Bearcats finished last year with a 12-18 overall record and a 7-9 conference record, which gave them the fifth seed in the AE Conference. Having only lost one starter to graduation, and with a talented trio of seniors, the team is focused on the future, and has added six new freshmen to the mix.

“It is early and we haven’t had a game yet, but so far the chemistry has been terrific,” Shapiro Ord said. “The older kids have done such a great job at really embracing the younger ones and helping them with their transition from high school to college.”

With leadership from experienced upperclassmen players such as senior guards Kai Moon and Carly Boland and classmate forward Karlee Krchnavi, the Bearcats seek to take the next step that will lead them to contention for the conference title and a bid for the NCAA Tournament. After being chosen to finish fourth out of nine teams in the AE preseason poll, it’s clear that the other teams in the conference think they’re capable.

“We all talk about [Moon] a lot, she keeps getting better and better,” Shapiro Ord said. “There are players like Carly Boland who has stepped it up. She has stepped up and she is continuing to do that, and even my upperclassmen, my juniors, they’ve done a great job.”

Moon and Boland combined to average 22.6 points last season. Following the graduation of forward Rebecca Carmody, ‘19, Moon is expected to be the undisputed leader on the court of this year’s Binghamton team. On the heels of a second-team all-conference performance this past season, she was picked to this year’s preseason all-conference team for the second consecutive year. She stressed the importance of integrating the new freshman class quickly.

“Well, we were freshmen once, and even though that was so long ago we try to remember what it was like when we were freshmen,” Moon said. “Trying to instill confidence in them early is big, being comfortable to lead in their own ways will only help them gel together.”

The Bearcats begin their campaign with the nonconference season, which lasts through the end of the calendar year. Among these nonconference games are trips to local rivals Cornell and Siena, a tournament at Florida International University and a marquee matchup in Coral Gables, Florida against the Miami Hurricanes. Traveling to face a nationally ranked opponent, Shapiro Ord sees the trip as a great opportunity for the team.

“You always want to test the waters and put your team in a situation where you know it’s gonna prepare them for hopefully what happens at the end of the year,” Shapiro Ord said.

The Bearcats’ AE campaign begins on Jan. 5, 2020 with a potential revenge match against the team that knocked them out of the AE Tournament last season, the Albany Great Danes. However, there are a lot of games to play before then, and if there’s one thing that was stressed at the team’s media day, it was “the process.”

“We’re just trying to get better every day,” Shapiro Ord said. “Trying to gel as a team on the court and off the court. Having six freshmen, adding plays, I think a lot of it is just the process and building on it every day.”

The Bearcats open their season on the road against Siena on Tuesday, Nov 5. The season-opening tipoff is set for 5 p.m. at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York.