It was a scoreless tie. It took until the 83rd minute for the Binghamton men’s soccer team to get its first shot on goal. Albany had the game’s first shot on goal five minutes prior. Nothing noteworthy had happened in the team’s regular season finale against Albany for the vast majority of the match.
However, in the 88th minute, redshirt sophomore defender Ryan Pyszka delivered a pass in front of the net. The Great Danes’ goalkeeper went off his line to play the ball, but sophomore midfielder Andrew McDonnell got to the ball first. He launched a header into the back of the Albany net, and the Bearcats finally broke through in a defensive battle.
“Me and Pyszka kinda made eye contact and he hit the ball long,” McDonnell said. “I tried to get a hit on it and I did, and after I headed it I didn’t know where it went and I got up and saw that it bounced into the back of the net.”
The Bearcats (6-8-3, 3-4-0 America East) closed out their regular season with a thrilling 1-0 victory over the Great Danes. Albany (9-6-1, 4-3-0 AE) handed nationally ranked New Hampshire its first loss of the season on Friday and had the potential to earn a first-round bye in the AE Championship by winning. Binghamton denied the Great Danes that chance.
“It was a very tight game,” said Binghamton head coach Paul Marco. “I didn’t really see a goal coming in the game, to be honest. Both teams played very tight … The excitement there at the end was really good.”
The Bearcats, on the other hand, had nothing to play for. The team had clinched a spot in the AE Championship and was locked into the No. 6 seed. The team was playing with house money in its final home game this season, but the players rallied when it mattered the most.
“It felt really good knowing that no matter what the outcome was, the season was going to continue,” Pyszka said. “Hopefully we can keep it going in the long run.”
McDonnell’s goal was his third career goal. All three have come at pivotal moments in games, with the previous two being overtime winners.
Now, the Bearcats will look forward to their first postseason appearance since 2016. Binghamton is set to take on No. 3 Hartford in a road quarterfinal this Saturday. The Hawks (10-4-4, 4-2-1 AE) defeated Binghamton in a 1-0 contest last Saturday. The team competed well in that tight game, despite not earning a result.
“We were very happy with how we played and the performance that the guys put in, but the outcome didn’t match the performance we put in,” Marco said. “Hartford did great in that moment to get that goal.”
Since being blown out 4-0 by Vermont on Oct. 12, the Bearcats have gone 3-1-2 to close out their season. This team was able to do what the team in the past two years hasn’t been able to — stay composed, persevere and earn a spot in the postseason.
“One great thing about this group of guys — it doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” Marco said. “Tomorrow’s training will be great. The group really has just come every day to get better, enjoy each other. The spirit of the team has been fantastic.”
New Hampshire and Vermont shared the regular season title, with UNH owning the tiebreaker and earning home-field advantage in the playoffs. Albany’s loss dropped the Great Danes into the No. 4 seed and allowed Hartford to take the No. 3 spot. UMass Lowell enters the playoffs seeded No. 5 and will travel to Albany for a quarterfinal matchup.
For Binghamton, kickoff in its quarterfinal against Hartford is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9 at Al-Marzook Field in Hartford, Connecticut.