Kicking off senior day at home, the Binghamton women’s soccer team took to the pitch energized to compete against NJIT, who remain winless in the America East (AE). After netting a ninth minute goal to rattle the Highlanders’ defense, the Bearcats pounced on NJIT’s backline to produce another three points and ride out a 4-1 victory.
“We came out flying and we had a lot of energy with recognizing our eight seniors who have been critical to everything our program has done in the past few years,” said Binghamton head coach Neel Bhattacharjee.
The opening goal for Binghamton (4-1-0, 4-1-0 AE) was crafted by a through ball from sophomore midfielder Olivia McKnight which found the feet of senior forward Essie Bonney, who hammered a shot into the top left-hand corner of the NJIT (2-5-1, 0-4-1 AE) goal.
“To get a senior, [Bonney], to score the first goal was great and it was a bit of a snowball effect,” Bhattacharjee said.
NJIT struggled to maintain its composure, and Binghamton began to take advantage. After the Highlanders tripped a Bearcat in the 18-yard box in the 14th minute, McKnight found another opportunity to get on the scoresheet. Stepping up to the penalty spot, McKnight picked out a shot in bottom corner of the net, but was unable to put the ball past the goalkeeper. However, capitalizing off of a rebound from the keeper’s hands, McKnight finished the shot to put Binghamton up 2-0.
Now in full control of the match, Binghamton began to put additional pressure on NJIT’s backline. In the 25th minute, BU’s attacking lineup made another push into the Highlanders’ 18-yard box. The ball once again found McKnight on the box’s left flank. Cutting inside on her right, the sophomore drove a low shot under the legs of an NJIT defender and past the goalkeeper, who could only manage a touch on the ball before it rolled into the bottom-right corner of the net.
Binghamton capped off its scoring with a goal from freshman defender Emma Colling, who found the back of the net after a corner kick was punched away by the goalkeeper and rebounded at her feet. While the Bearcats’ 4-0 lead seemed like a decisive victory for the home team, NJIT began to shift the rhythm of the match in its favor.
The first signs of NJIT’s resurgence began at the end of the first half when a curling corner kick by the Highlanders glided over the Binghamton goalkeeper and straight into the back of the net. Although the half finished 4-1 in favor of BU, the Highlanders started to build control of the match.
“Around the 35th or 40th minute mark is when we took our foot of the gas pedal a little bit, and then we weren’t able to get out of that funk,” Bhattacharjee said.
A scoreless second half followed the five-goal flurry in the first. Binghamton’s complacency on the pitch cost them in front of goal, shrinking its total of eight shots in the first half down to just five in the second. Additionally, Binghamton recorded six fouls, and two Bearcats picked up yellow cards. Meanwhile, NJIT began dominating the game’s rhythm, totaling seven shots in the second half and earning a penalty in the final minutes of the game.
Senior goalkeeper Mackenzie Hanna managed to parry the shot away from goal to record her third save of the game, and Binghamton’s three-goal lead at halftime was too steep for the Highlanders to overcome.
“In the second half, [the defense] worked too hard for my liking,” Bhattacharjee said. “We just couldn’t hold on to the ball. We weren’t doing enough up top or in the midfield, so the backs were the ones who really dealt with the pressure.”
Picking up the slack from the Binghamton frontline, senior defender Erin Theiller anchored the Bearcats at center-back, keeping the ball away from scoring opportunities. Despite Theiller and Hanna holding back NJIT’s offense, BU were on the back-foot for most of the second half.
“This was uncharacteristic of us for this spring,” Bhattacharjee said. “It was just an off second half. I think it was complacency, it’s just a matter of us coming out in a professional manner, looking to our leadership, keeping our standard there.”
Prior to Sunday’s match, Binghamton defeated Vermont 2-0 on Thursday. While the game did not count towards either team’s conference record, Binghamton managed to shut out the Catamounts by scoring back-to-back goals in the first half, while staying consistent in the second half. Both points came within the 26th minute, and BU’s offense continued to plague Vermont throughout the game.
After picking up another two wins against UVM and NJIT, the Bearcats are scheduled to finish the regular season against UMBC on Friday, April 9. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at the Retriever Soccer Park in Baltimore, Maryland.