After its 2020 fall season was canceled, the Binghamton women’s soccer team returned the following spring to battle its way into the America East (AE) championship final. Although the Bearcats were hindered by a lack of play in the fall, their veteran senior class took the reins in leading them to a final conference matchup against Stony Brook.

“We just have to be thankful that we have the opportunity to play and be grateful for every opportunity,” said senior midfielder Dora Hayes. “Just take advantage of all of our chances and make it the best we can, because at that point, we really have nothing to lose cause we’ve already lost so much from COVID-19. Realizing that, we just had to give it our all, we all bought in.”

Hayes was one of eight seniors leading the team during 2021. She was named to the AE All-Championship team and netted the game-winning goal in Binghamton’s playoff semifinal game against UMass Lowell. Then, in the final matchup against Stony Brook, Binghamton fell 1-0 to the Seawolves. While BU failed to find offensive consistency during the game, senior defender Erin Theiller anchored the backline to keep the Bearcats in the game. Theiller started all seven games in 2021, played the most minutes on the team and was named to the first-team all-conference.

“We all had one common goal and worked toward that goal with a positive mindset and attitude,” Theiller said. “We all really bought in this year. We had a new coaching staff this year which brought real positivity. That really aided this year and our win streak.”

Along with Theiller, sophomore midfielder Olivia McKnight was also named to the first-team all-conference selection. Binghamton also had three second-team all-conference selections including junior forward Stefania Piantadosi, junior defender Nicole Scudero and junior goalkeeper Haylee Poltorak. Sophomore midfielder Victoria McKnight was also awarded a selection for the all-rookie team.

“I’m super confident, [the underclassmen] are great leaders, they’re great players, they’re great people,” Theiller said. “I think they’ll be just fine without us. We helped them along the way, but they’re ready to take over the team. This is their team now.”

The Bearcats finished their season with a 6-2-0 overall record and a 4-1-0 conference record. After losing its second game of the season 1-0 to Stony Brook, BU rattled off four straight wins in league play. Going into the playoffs, the Bearcats were the No. 2 seed in Division B behind the Seawolves.

Spearheading the Bearcats’ success in 2021 was Binghamton head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. He finished his fifth season with the program this year and averaged above a total of nine wins per season leading up to 2021. The year before Bhattacharjee was hired, BU finished with only three wins. Part of the turnaround was due to his focus on the defensive end, as Binghamton was tied for the AE lead in least average goals allowed at 0.5 a game.

With three all-conference members and an all-rookie selection outside of the senior class, Hayes said that she is still confident with the program’s future despite losing eight seniors to graduation.

“We’ve had an impact on the whole program since we’ve got here,” Hayes said. “I think our personnel going forward is gonna do just fine. I think our freshman, once they have a full season and a full opportunity to really showcase themselves on the field, they’re going to be able to impact the whole team and the program. Everyone has been playing a huge part and has stepped up, especially this year.”