Following a quarterfinal victory over UMBC last week, the Binghamton men’s soccer team traveled to UNH to compete in an America East (AE) semifinal match for the first time since 2015. In 90 minutes of play, the Bearcats were unable to get any shots on goal, ending their season with a 3-0 loss to the No. 22 Wildcats.
“I feel a little disappointed in our performance tonight,” said Binghamton head coach Paul Marco. “It wasn’t typical of how we have been playing. Give UNH some credit, they’re a great team. They’re very difficult [to play] at home. They were up for the match and we kind of weren’t ready for the moment.”
The first half started with immediate action as UNH (14-4-0, 6-1-0 AE) found the back of BU’s (6-9-4, 3-2-2 AE) net less than two minutes into the game. Despite the early goal, neither side scored for the remainder of the half. The Wildcats were constant in their attack, peppering the Bearcats’ goal eight times, four of those shots being on net. However, senior goalkeeper Mats Roorda remained resilient in goal, tallying three saves in the half.
“I think we were very nervous to start the game off,” Marco said. “We let [UNH] intimidate us a little bit, which was disappointing. To leak a goal a minute and 50 seconds into the game is difficult. I felt after the first goal, the game settled a little bit [and] we started to do better.”
Binghamton struggled to find opportunities on the offensive side in the first 45. The visitors managed only three shots, with zero being on goal. At the end of the first half, the Bearcats began to get more consistency on their possessions. They got three corner kicks in a row with five minutes to play in the frame, applying pressure on the UNH defense going into the break, though none were converted.
“Once we started to move the ball around and bring the fullbacks into the game, our wide backs had a little more time and space,” Marco said. “I felt like [the strikers] were trying to get on the ball. It wasn’t like the strikers weren’t trying to play.”
The second half started out slow for both sides, but just over 10 minutes in, UNH played a through ball in behind the Binghamton defense, giving a Wildcat attacker a one-on-one opportunity against Roorda. The goalkeeper was forced to come off of his line, successfully blocking the attempt and preventing UNH from doubling their lead.
“[Roorda] did make a really good save,” Marco said. “But again, we conceded three goals, so it’s hard to say … It’s just tough.”
In the 59th minute, on a UNH corner kick, the ball was crossed into the middle of the box where a Wildcat was able to get their head on it and find the bottom left corner. With 30 minutes to play, BU made several attempts to stage a comeback. Despite the Bearcats’ best efforts, UNH went on to score the game-sealing goal in the 72nd minute to go up 3-0.
When the final whistle blew, the Bearcats were on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreboard. Roorda ended the game with five saves. However, Binghamton was unable to produce on the other side of the field. It fired only seven shots for the game and none were on goal.
“[The first goal] probably sums up the game,” Marco said. “[UNH] wanted to compete and have contact and make contact and really try to dominate individual battles. Some of our guys just weren’t up for individual battles tonight, and that’s probably the disappointing piece because the guys have grown so much the past month.”
The Bearcats started this year with an eight-game winless streak, not earning a victory until the end of September against Hartford. After that win, BU closed out its regular season with a 4-2-2 record to secure a spot in the AE tournament. Once in the postseason, the Bearcats were able to knock off fourth-seeded UMBC in an overtime thriller, securing them an AE semifinals appearance for the first time since 2015.
“We showed good growth,” Marco said. “Individual players as well as collective team performances, and we kind of figured out October. We wanted to get better in October and I felt like we were better.”
As the season concludes, the focus will shift to next season. With nine seniors and one graduate student, the roster is bound to see some significant changes during the offseason. However, Marco is hopeful that the team will raise the bar and show maturity next year.
“Going into next season, the bar has to be raised in several areas,” Marco said. “We talked about those, and hopefully the guys will take some personal responsibility and really show some maturity in those areas.”