Before the ball even hit the back of the net, the Binghamton men’s soccer team charged from midfield to embrace Bret Celeste at the Bearcats Sports Complex on Saturday night. The junior midfielder had just secured the team an America East semifinals match, nailing a sudden death penalty kick in overtime.
With the score knotted at 1-1 through much of regulation and two overtime periods, the AE quarterfinals matchup between Binghamton (5-13-1) and Stony Brook needed a victor.
Binghamton then entered its first tournament penalty kick shootout since 2006. That year, the Bearcats prevailed over Boston University, holding a 6-5 advantage in the shootout to take the semifinal game.
This year’s team would not upset that precedent.
After five frames of the shootout, neither team captured an advantage. With the game on line, Stony Brook sophomore back Taveras Thompson rifled a shot at sophomore goalkeeper Robert Moewes, who dove to keep his team’s season alive.
“That’s the goalkeeper’s job,” Moewes said. “That’s how it always is with penalty kicks.”
A modest answer from the America East Goalkeeper of the Year.
“I thought that our goalkeeper today showed why he’s the Goalkeeper of the Year,” BU head coach Paul Marco said. “Of the penalties he saved, two of them were outstanding. He certainly helped us get to where we are right now.”
With victory directly on the line, Celeste stepped up, hoping to end the game and send his team to the next round.
“There was a bit of pressure, but you want that,” Celeste said. “You get the glory at the end of it, so it’s what you want.”
Glory was exactly what Celeste got when his shot — the Bearcats’ sixth penalty kick — flew past the diving Seawolf keeper.
“It builds belief in the team,” Marco said. “I think they have a little more belief that they can come back. So if things don’t go our way at Hartford, I think the guys realize that we can come back on a team. Now they have a better idea about themselves; they know what they’re capable of and we’re going to see that at Hartford.”
Though the score against Stony Brook (4-13-2) in its AE quarterfinals match went down as 1-1 in the record books, Binghamton advances to face No. 2 Hartford on Wednesday thanks to its 4-3 penalty kick advantage.
The victory proved especially gratifying due to how close the game was. Both the Seawolves’ and the Bearcats’ offensive attempts in the first 45 were thwarted by each team’s strong defense.
“We knew it was going to be a very tight game, but I didn’t expect it to be as tight as it was,” Marco said.
The match’s scoreless streak finally broke two minutes into the second half when Stony Brook senior midfielder Keith McKenna converted on a free kick from freshman midfielder Thibault Duval to put the Seawolves up, 1-0. The score held until the 77th minute, when BU junior midfielder Tucker Sandercock finished a cross from sophomore midfielder Mike Kubik, garnering his first goal of the season.
“What resilience,” Marco said. “We were down and out for a while. We kept trying to put things in and balls were scooting across the face of the goal. I felt like at that time, we didn’t really have a guy who wanted to step up and be the hero. We were just trying to give the ball to someone else to do it. In that moment, we just jumped up, rose above everyone and one of our guys smashed it in.”
As the clock wound down to the end of regulation play, the Bearcats continued to put pressure on the Seawolves — whom they routed, 5-1, last Saturday — but were unable to take the lead.
“We beat them pretty good the game before, but it was close for a lot of the game,” Celeste said. “No game is easy in the playoffs, but we were expecting a game like this.”
The Bearcats are set to take on Hartford (10-4-5) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Al-Marzook Field in Hartford, Connecticut.