In the closing minutes of the America East (AE) championship matchup, the Binghamton women’s soccer team was down a goal and attempted to make a final offensive push against Stony Brook. While the Bearcats’ final minutes of pressure seemed promising in front of the goal, they were unable to even the score and ended their season with a 1-0 loss.
“You could see how bad they wanted it,” said Binghamton head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “They gave their full effort, left it all out on the field, competed until the very last second.”
On Saturday evening, Binghamton (6-2-0, 4-1-0 AE) entered its first AE final since 2009 against a Stony Brook (6-3-0, 4-1-0 AE) side that beat BU 1-0 earlier in the season. After falling behind early, the Bearcats’ defense kept the team in the game. Anchored by senior defender Erin Theiller and junior defender Kayla MacKenzie, the Bearcats fought for opportunities but were unable to capitalize offensively.
“The biggest advantage [Stony Brook] had was experience,” Bhattacharjee said. “This is the first time our program has been in the AE Championship since 2009 … For Stony Brook’s senior class, this is the third time that they’ve played in that final in four years.”
The ninth-minute Seawolves goal was spearheaded by graduate student forward Alyssa Francese after she went one-on-one with junior defender Nicole Scudero on the right side of the box. Beaten for pace, Scudero was unable to stop Francese from sending a slow-rolling cross into the box to find the feet of senior forward Fanny Götesson who scored a tap in goal.
“We went down by an early goal to Stony Brook, obviously they got off to a very early start and put on the pressure in the first half,” Bhattacharjee said.
Entering the second half a goal down, the Bearcats still struggled on offense initially, but began to pick up steam heading further into the half. BU recorded eight shots in the second half, and six of those came in the final 10 minutes. However, only one shot was on-target and was saved by the keeper in the 86th minute.
“We made [the game] much more competitive in the second half, and what we did in the last 14 minutes was put up [Theiller] so we had a target for any kind of [set piece],” Bhattacharjee said.
In addition to leading the Bearcats’ backline, Theiller recorded two shots on goal during Binghamton’s final 10-minute spell of possession.
Aiding Theiller on defense was junior goalkeeper Haylee Poltorak, who made five saves during the course of the game. Against UMass Lowell on Thursday, Poltorak recorded her fourth clean sheet of the season and made four saves.
While an early goal sunk the Bearcats during their matchup against the Seawolves, BU’s semifinal game against the River Hawks (5-2-1, 4-0-0 AE) told a different story. Binghamton seemed defensively sound throughout the match and took the lead in the 54th minute. The goal came off of a long-range shot outside of the box from senior midfielder Dora Hayes, who recorded her first goal of the season. The game concluded 1-0 in favor of the Bearcats.
The loss to Stony Brook marks the end of Binghamton’s season. Although they were unable to take home the title, the Bearcats took six wins from eight games played.
“We took a good step this year,” Bhattacharjee said. “We’ll learn from it, we’ll be better from it and it’s a matter of integrating our big freshman class coming in next year and being able to push through [any obstacles] heading into the fall.”
The last time Binghamton won a conference title was back in 2004. Bhattacharjee acknowledged the adversity that the Bearcats faced this season and is optimistic about the future of the program.
“I’m extremely grateful and proud of all this team had to give,” Bhattacharjee said. “We’re very close. We know we’re close. We just gotta get over that last hump.”