In a highly contested weekend matchup, the Binghamton women’s soccer team took NJIT into double overtime as both teams were drawn with a goal apiece. In the 107th minute of play, however, BU put the game to rest after a soaring shot from junior midfielder Victoria McKnight was too strong for the keeper to handle, forcing her to deflect it square into the feet of freshman forward Peyton Gilmore who easily tucked away the chance.
“We did a really good job in terms of getting those balls forward,” said Binghamton head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “We’d usually want a little more in terms of final production … But on the day it certainly turned out in our favor.”
The 2-1 win over NJIT (4-10-0, 2-3-0 America East [AE]) now puts Binghamton (8-5-1, 4-1-0 AE) tied for first in the conference standings.
“We’re certainly pleased to be standing at 4-1 after the midway point of the conference season,” Bhattacharjee said. “We knew we had to battle for every one of those wins. This conference is very tight … This team has shown that they’ve got mettle, they’ve got heart, they’ve got the grit to pull out those one-goal wins.”
The matchup opened with a sluggish first 10 minutes by BU. In the eighth minute of play, the Bearcats conceded a goal to the Highlanders after a breakaway from an NJIT attacker allowed them to slip a shot past senior goalkeeper Haylee Poltorak.
“We came up with a slow start and NJIT had a lot of momentum in the first 12 or 15 minutes of the game,” Bhattacharjee said.
The NJIT goal was a wake-up call for the Bearcats. BU quickly turned up the pace of the game, and the increased pressure by Binghamton eventually resulted in a 27th minute goal by freshman midfielder Maria Poulos. The long-range strike ricocheted off the head of an NJIT defender and lobbed over the goalkeeper, tying the game.
Following the first half, Binghamton dominated on the offensive front. Although the second half stayed goalless, BU took 12 shots on the NJIT net while the Highlanders only managed three. Then, in the first and second overtime, BU tallied another nine shots, bringing its full-time total up to 30. Twelve of the 30 shots were on goal.
“I was pleased throughout in terms of the opportunities we created,” Bhattacharjee said. “We just lacked that little bit of quality to get that second goal.”
Although Poltorak was unable to keep a clean sheet on Sunday, she still managed six saves against the Highlanders. Poltorak is now second in the AE for total saves and third in save percentage.
“Our backs and our goalkeeping has been pretty sharp throughout the whole season to limit a lot of golden opportunities, and I think we’ve been able to take our chances well,” Bhattacharjee said.
UMass Lowell is the other team in the AE tied for first overall in the standings. BU lost to the River Hawks in a 1-0 overtime battle earlier in the season.
“It’s nice to be in first place now, but we know what really counts is what happens on Oct. 28,” Bhattacharjee said.
Binghamton is set to go up against the preseason conference favorites, Stony Brook, in its next matchup on Thursday, Oct. 14. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium in Stony Brook, New York.