It wasn’t pretty, but the Binghamton women’s soccer team clinched a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season.
Despite losing to Vermont, 2-1, in double overtime Sunday afternoon at the Bearcats Sports Complex, Binghamton used a comeback win by UMBC over New Hampshire to snatch the sixth seed and final berth to the America East tournament.
While the Bearcats (8-7-2, 3-4-1 America East) entered Senior Day needing a win, tie or New Hampshire loss to clinch a playoff spot, the Catamounts (6-8-3, 3-3-2 AE) couldn’t settle for anything less than a victory to extend their season.
With just 2:35 left in the second overtime, Vermont’s prayers were answered when freshman midfielder Caitie Green launched a shot from outside the box that got past Binghamton senior keeper Stephanie Speirs and bounced toward the far post. Vermont freshman forward Nikki McFarland got to the deflection first and put the waist-high loose ball into the back of the net to propel the Catamounts into the postseason.
“We knew going into overtime that we had already clinched,” BU head coach Sarah McClellan said. “Obviously, we’re really excited to be in the playoffs. That’s where we wanted to be. That was the goal. But I think the whole team is pretty irritated about that last play and having outplayed a team and outshot them. We know we can still do better and, thankfully, we have the playoffs to do that now.”
With their backs against the wall, the Catamounts struck first. In the 14th minute, junior forward Bre Pletnick took a feed into the middle, spun and chipped the ball from 20 yards out, floating it into the top left portion of the goal.
The Bearcats nearly retaliated with 11 minutes left in the first half when junior back Connie Gormley secured a rebound off a corner kick and fired a shot that rang off the crossbar.
But Binghamton wouldn’t head into the locker room empty-handed as a couple of underclassmen paired up just four minutes later to put BU on the board. Sophomore back Genevieve Crescenzo drew two defenders on the right side before dishing the ball to freshman forward Michele Galvin from eight yards out. Galvin found the far corner of the net for her third goal of the season.
Both teams were held scoreless in the second half and first overtime before Vermont delivered the game-winner with fewer than three minutes left in the second overtime.
“We’ve got [Vermont] over there celebrating that they’re in the playoffs, and our players are crying,” McClellan said. “And we’re in the playoffs, but our team is pretty unhappy about losing. And I think that’s going to provide a lot of motivation and grit to make a statement in playoffs.”
BU doubled up on Vermont in shots, 16-8, and also held an 8-1 advantage in corner kicks.
In net, junior Gaby Gold started and finished the first half. Senior Carrie Martin played the first 22 minutes of the second half, and Speirs replaced Martin and finished the game.
In their final home game, seniors Liz Cusato, Emma Kurth, Carrie Martin, Kaitlyn Martin, Stephanie Speirs and Sophie Sylla were honored before the opening whistle.
On Thursday, the Bearcats will head to Orono to battle third-seeded Maine in a quarterfinal matchup.
While a win in their season finale would have given the Bearcats some added confidence heading into the playoffs, a loss, according to McClellan, will light a similar fire.
“I think you’re going to see a lot more urgency from our team,” McClellan said. “We’ve been wanting to be in a playoff game and saving a little bit for playoffs, so I think you’re going to see a lot of work rate out there, a lot of heart. And I feel very good about our team playing any team in the conference headed into playoffs.”
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Alumni Field.