There’s no denying it — the Binghamton University men’s soccer team (4-8-2, 0-3-1 America East) has struggled, to put it lightly, through its first stretch of America East matchups.
But when Colgate University visited Vestal on Tuesday for a non-conference match, the Bearcats were given a break from the pressure-filled environment that presents itself in a mid-October America East match and played to a 1-1 draw with the Raiders.
With the game having no conference implications, Binghamton head coach Paul Marco rested some of his key players for numerous reasons, including card accumulation, and gave a night off to those who needed time to heal from minor injuries.
Colgate (8-3-3, 2-1-1 Patriot League) jumped out to a 1-0 lead with just over 22 minutes remaining in the first half. Sophomore Barrett Metzger unleashed a corner kick into the heart of the BU box where it met teammate Patrick Letourneau, who redirected it at sophomore goalie Chris Hayen.
Hayen was able to stop the initial attempt but allowed the ball to bounce away from his grasp and Letourneau capitalized on the rebound for his first goal of the season to give Colgate a 1-0 lead.
Marco admitted that Colgate did a good job on its execution of the corner kick, but was also quick to note that he thought some of the new faces who were inserted for the non-conference match were at fault for allowing the goal.
“[Some of the younger guys on the field] had never really settled in on defending corners,” he said. “So that will be something that we certainly look at because a trait of ours is that we don’t concede corner kick goals.”
Colgate nearly padded its lead before halftime as team scoring leader Steven Miller unleashed a rocket shot from inside the BU box. But Hayen had a beat on it, making an acrobatic save to keep the Raider lead at one heading into the locker room.
In the opening minute of the second half, Colgate yet again nearly went ahead by two as Miller beat out BU defenders for a long lead pass. But his breakaway shot was, for a second time, turned aside by Hayen.
Binghamton eventually broke through with just under 32 minutes remaining on sophomore Luke Halberg’s third goal of the season. Junior Jake Keegan was credited with the assist, his fifth of the year.
Keegan found a streaking Halberg down the right side of the field and Halberg, despite being blanketed by numerous defenders, was able to unleash a shot on goal.
Colgate goalie Grant Reed got a piece of it, but the strength of Halberg’s shot was too great as it skidded under Reed and into the net.
“[Keegan] was pretty good at playing the ball to me,” Halberg said. “I thought if I could make that run it’d be a pretty easy goal so it was a good feeling to finish it.”
Following Halberg’s game-tying goal, scoring remained at a standstill for the rest of regulation and through two overtime periods, leading to a 1-1 final.
Though Marco was pleased with his team’s effort against Colgate, he made it clear that he wasn’t pleased with the result.
“At home you don’t play for ties; at home you play for a win,” he said. “But a tie at home playing against Colgate, which is a very good team, builds some confidence in the guys.”
Still winless in America East play heading into the final stretch of the season, the Bearcats will need confidence now more than ever. Despite their struggles, they still sit within striking distance of a playoff spot.
Excluding leading University of Maryland, Baltimore County and second-place Boston University, all AE teams are capable of leapfrogging a squad in front of them with just one win.
The Bearcats will look to do just that as they are set to take on Stony Brook University on Saturday. At 2-1-1, the Seawolves currently stand in third place behind UMBC and Boston.
“They’re a very good team … and they move the ball a lot,” Marco said about his team’s upcoming opponent. “We’ll have to be patient [and] we’ll have to pick our moments … We’ll understand how they’re going to play, it’ll just be a question of if we can weather a storm a little bit.”
Following the matchup against SBU, Binghamton is set to take on University of Hartford on Wednesday before concluding its regular season by hosting the Boston Terriers on Oct. 29.
“I don’t see us out of the playoffs,” he continued. “I see us in the playoffs, provided we take care of some of these upcoming games.”
The Bearcats are set to kick off play against Stony Brook at 7 p.m. on Saturday at LaValle Stadium.