With the America East (AE) Conference Championship on the horizon, the Binghamton women’s soccer team is slated to face No. 1 UMass Lowell (5-1-1, 4-0 AE) Thursday afternoon to kick off the postseason. The Bearcats (5-1, 4-1 America East) are set to take part in this season’s four-team championship.
“We’re flying with a lot of confidence right now,” said Binghamton head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “One thing about our teams that do well in the postseason: they’re healthy, they’re deep and they’re playing their best soccer at this time … All of those things are blending very nicely for us at exactly the right moment.”
Due to the unusual nature of this season’s schedule, Binghamton’s matchup against the River Hawks is the semifinal match, and the winner will go up against either Vermont or Stony Brook for the title on Saturday.
Throughout the season, Binghamton has struggled to keep a full roster available but heading into their semifinal game, the Bearcats will have a complete lineup.
“It’s nice that we’re going with our full roster — giving us that depth is certainly going to help,” Bhattacharjee said. “We might be able to substitute more, and if we were fortunate enough to advance, that’s something that could help us on Saturday.”
UMass Lowell currently averages 1.857 goals per game, good enough for second in the AE. Despite the River Hawks’ offensive capabilities, Bhattacharjee is confident in the BU backline to keep the Bearcats in contention.
“Our backline and goalkeeping have been a strength for us this season,” Bhattacharjee said. “There’s always someone in the back who we can rely on to make the play.”
At the apex of the Binghamton defense is junior goalkeeper Haylee Poltorak, who has managed to keep three clean sheets this season out of Binghamton’s six games. Poltorak was recently named second team all-conference.
“This year we’ve been as close as we could be, and I think we’re so focused and driven that there’s nothing else we can possibly do to prepare for the game,” Poltorak said.
In front of Poltorak on the defense are senior Erin Theiller and junior Nicole Scudero. Theiller was named to the first team all-conference, and Scudero was part of the second team, alongside Poltorak. The Bearcats have only conceded three goals this season, and Scudero has recorded two assists, including a low cross during overtime against UMBC on Friday to earn a game-winning goal.
“We’re super excited heading into tournament play,” Scudero said. “We finished up super strong on a four-game win streak, and this is what we’ve been practicing and preparing so hard for this last year-and-a-half.”
Also named to the first team all-conference was sophomore midfielder Olivia McKnight. McKnight is tied with Scudero for assists this season, also recording two. Her twin sister, sophomore midfielder Victoria McKnight, did not compete last season and was named to the all-rookie team. Rounding out the Bearcats’ all-conference athletes is junior forward Stefania Piantadosi who currently leads the team in goals with three and was named to the second team all-conference.
The Bearcats’ only loss this season has been against Stony Brook. The 1-0 home defeat came after the Seawolves netted a goal in the 57th minute under poor weather conditions. If Stony Brook beats Vermont in their semifinal matchup and BU takes down the River Hawks, the two teams will meet again for the AE championship.
“Just the way our chemistry has been this season and how much we’ve grown each and every game … I think [our situation is] the best possible thing and we’re looking forward to taking it home on Saturday,” Poltorak said.
Binghamton’s match against UMass Lowell will take place on Thursday, April 15. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Cushing Field in Lowell, Massachusetts.