With a hard-fought loss to top-seeded and nationally ranked Stony Brook University in the America East conference tournament on Wednesday, the Binghamton University men’s lacrosse team saw its wild ride of a 2011 season come to an end.
The stats compiled by this year’s Binghamton team are not especially impressive ones. The Bearcats, who finished with a 7-8 overall record, 3-2 in conference play, were outscored by 24 goals on the season and made a first-round exit in the conference tournament. But such a straightforward analysis does not do the team its justice in fully describing the level of success it had this season, or the kind of year it has experienced.
After being projected to finish in last place in the America East in the preseason coaches’ poll, the Bearcats stumbled out of the gate with an 0-3 start punctuated by a 13-4 loss at home at the hands of then-No. 6 nationwide Cornell University. But following that game, the Bearcats rattled off four consecutive wins, highlighted by a 7-6 upset of Colgate University, which is now No. 14 in the country. Sophomore attack Matt Springer was at the helm of the offense and senior defenseman Derrick Danieu consistently shut down the opposition’s top players.
But shortly after the win over Colgate, which gave the Bearcats a winning record for the first time in over four years that far into the season, the team’s positive momentum ground to a halt with the news of longtime head coach Ed Stephenson’s resignation. The architect of the Binghamton men’s Division I lacrosse program, Stephenson resigned in response to the suspensions of three player — suspensions he claimed were handed out by the athletic department without due process of law.
Thrust to the helm of the team was 27-year-old assistant coach Kevin McKeown, Binghamton’s only All-American lacrosse player in the program’s short history.
Following the resignation, the team hit the road, traveling to Siena College and Lehigh University to finish up its non-conference schedule. The Bearcats went on to lose both games by a combined score of 23-10.
But in a conference like the America East, which typically only sees one team head to the national tournament, the real season begins with conference play. With that in mind, the Bearcats turned it on when they needed it most as they opened their conference season with a thrilling 8-7 overtime victory against Vermont.
Despite dropping their next two games, one of which came against powerhouse Stony Brook, the Bearcats defeated eventual conference champion No. 19 University of Hartford to clinch a spot in the conference tournament. Binghamton defeated University at Albany on a last-second goal on Senior Night to finish the season strong and headed into the postseason on a two-game winning streak with a 3-2 conference record and in a three-way tie for second place.
But the Bearcats were a casualty of tie-breaking procedures which dropped them all the way to the No. 4 seed, setting up a first round matchup with a dominant Stony Brook team.
Though BU managed to keep it close in the first quarter, the floodgates eventually burst open as Stony Brook jumped out to a 12-3 lead heading into the fourth. But even with all of SBU’s starters still in the game, the Bearcats went down fighting, scoring five straight goals early in the fourth to narrow the gap in the Seawolves’ eventual 12-8 win. For their efforts, junior Jeff Donigan and sophomore Tyler Perrelle were awarded All-Championship honors.
The Bearcats’ final record of 7-8 does not accurately depict the success and excitement with which their season was filled. The team exhibited a solid blend of talent, experience and strong leadership.
Binghamton will be losing several key players in its graduating seniors, including midfielder Frank Donlon, attack David Raleigh and four-time All-Conference selection and defenseman Derrick Danieu.
But the bulk of the team’s scoring came from younger players, including Springer and Perrelle and freshmen Brandon Planck and Michael Antinozzi. Each of them will look to take on a bigger role when they take the field next year.
The Bearcats were picked to finish last in the preseason poll, and throughout the course of the year experienced bumps along the road both on and off the field. But even so, they were able to remain focused, capping off their season with a competitive postseason showing.