Over the weekend, the Binghamton women’s soccer team lost its first game in its last six tries. In a defensive matchup, it was a first-half header that softly floated over a crowd of Binghamton defenders that gave New Hampshire the 1-0 win. Despite not being able to net a goal, BU controlled much of the second half in shots and possessions.
“I thought we played one of our better possession games that we have had of recent matches, unfortunately [it] just didn’t translate to us getting the final product,” said Binghamton head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “We got into those situations in the inner third [and] got good scoring situations, but we just missed that final last piece.”
After a quiet start, UNH (6-7-2, 4-3-1 America East [AE]) found themselves deep in Bearcat (8-6-3, 4-2-2 AE) territory on the left flank. A cross flew just inside the 18-yard box where a Wildcat corralled it. As senior defender Nicole Scudero pressured, the striker cleared the ball high in the air. The ball met the head of a UNH forward who bounced it across the width of the goal. Senior goalkeeper Haylee Poltorak dove as the ball passed her outstretched hands and the Bearcats went down early.
“I think defensively, we’re still playing pretty well, picking up a goal today,” Bhattacharjee said. “But that’s only the fourth goal we’ve given up in eight games. I think Poltorak, [and our backline] — they’ve done very well for us in the back. Scudero gave up kind of a flukey goal.”
Even with the loss, Poltorak is tied for the most shutouts in the AE with seven. She also has a total of 83 saves, averaging 4.88 per game. Even with averaging the second-least goals allowed per game at 0.719, the Bearcats have yet to get a win in their past three games, with two ties and a loss. Additionally, BU has not put a ball in the back of the net in any of those matchups.
“We just didn’t do enough in terms of making that last opportunity,” Bhattacharjee said. “We’re playing with a little bit more urgency. We need to get better and sharper at that. We did a number of good things getting there, now we got to be able to put the ball in the back of the net.”
The Wildcats only outshot the Bearcats 7-6 in the closely contested first half. Second-half adjustments greatly improved BU’s odds as they quintupled UNH’s shots 10-2. Bhattacharjee attributes this to their hold on possessions. Starting in the second half, the Bearcats opted to move Scudero further up the field and sophomore defender Emma Colling to the back. Bhattacharjee said this earned BU more possessions as Scudero was able to win the ball on the front line.
“It wasn’t necessarily because we were defending great,” Bhattacharjee said. “It was just we have had more possession of the ball. We would prevent more and keep them on their heels, and when you do that you don’t really have to defend that much.”
BU now sits at second in the AE with one regular-season game to go and has clinched an AE Championship bid. With 14 points, they are one behind conference leader Vermont who lost to the Bearcats earlier in the season and recently clinched the No. 1 seed for the AE Championship. However, since that loss, the Catamounts are 6-1 and have won six straight AE matchups.
“I think we got a great shot in terms of playing for a home quarterfinal if we finished third or fourth,” Bhattacharjee said. “But we also know, depending on the results, perhaps, second or even first is a possibility, we can finish anywhere from first to sixth, so it’s pretty wide open.”
The Bearcats will travel back home for their final regular-season matchup of the year versus UAlbany on Thursday, Oct 28. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.