After closing out its regular season on a 3-1-2 run and reaching the America East (AE) tournament for the first time since 2016, the Binghamton men’s soccer team fell to Hartford in a quarterfinal matchup.
The Bearcats (6-9-3, 3-4-0 AE) had their return to the postseason spoiled in a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Hawks (11-4-4, 4-2-1 AE).
“I thought that the guys were a little bit out of sync today,” said Binghamton head coach Paul Marco. “I thought that in the warm-ups they looked pretty nervous. The way that the guys were under-hitting passes and things like that. When you play that way you make a mistake … But once the game started I thought we settled in quite well.”
Nearly the entire Binghamton roster was playing in the postseason for the first time in their collegiate career. Entering the game, only graduate student defender Stephen McKenna had ever played in the playoffs for the Bearcats. The Hawks were in a similar position, as they were also making their first playoff appearance since 2016.
The first Hartford goal was scored off a corner kick in the 28th minute, and the second came eight minutes later off a free kick.
“They got both goals off of second chances on set pieces, so that’s probably the difficult thing to take,” Marco said. “You train, you work hard and it comes down to a moment where you have chances to clear the ball and you just didn’t do it.”
Aside from the set-piece scoring opportunities by the Hawks, the game was played fairly evenly between the two teams. Shots finished 17-15 in favor of the Bearcats, but the team was not able to convert any of its shots on goal.
“I don’t think our guys played to their strengths as much as they could’ve or should’ve today,” Marco said. “We played, and we played hard, their effort was good. I just didn’t think that the things guys do individually well, they didn’t try and put themselves in positions to do those as often as possible.”
The second half was evenly contested, with no goals scored. Despite adjusting tactically to a more offense-oriented game plan, the Bearcats were unable to make a goal, and the game ended with a 2-0 victory for the Hawks.
Prior to the playoff game, three Bearcats were selected for the AE All-Conference teams. Junior midfielder Noah Luescher was named Second Team All-Conference, as well as the All-Academic team. Freshman defender Oliver Svalander and sophomore goalkeeper P.J. Parker were selected to the league’s All-Rookie team.
This year’s roster was substantially younger than teams in the past few years. Last year’s team featured 11 graduating seniors and failed to reach the playoffs, whereas this year’s team has just five total upperclassmen, but was able to make the jump into the postseason.
The Bearcats will graduate just two players this offseason — McKenna and senior forward Haris Brkovic. With a strong finish to the season and a young roster, Binghamton has the potential to take steps forward in 2020.
“I think that the future is extremely bright,” Marco said. “The guys are really disappointed. The bus has been quiet all the way [back to Binghamton]. They’ll continue to work hard and we’ll try to improve the roster.”