As the final minutes wound down in the Binghamton men’s soccer team America East (AE) opener against UMass Lowell on Saturday night, it seemed as though the Bearcats (5-2-4, 0-0-1 AE) would have to accept a narrow 1-0 defeat. However, BU refused to give up until the final buzzer had sounded, and with just 27 seconds left in regulation, sophomore midfielder Kevin Flesch netted the equalizer against 19th-ranked River Hawks (7-0-2, 0-0-1 AE).
The draw against a ranked opponent is the Bearcats’ first since they tied seventh-ranked UMBC in 2013.
With BU down, 1-0, in the final minute of play, redshirt junior Charlie Novoth delivered a ball into the center of the box, hoping a teammate would be in the right position. Flesch answered the call, converting a header off the right post to even the score, 1-1, and record his first goal of the season.
The Bearcats’ tally came 17 minutes after the River Hawks recorded the match’s first goal.
To start the second, UML kept its two best players on the bench to later enter as substitutes. But when pair entered, the game changed. Within minutes, freshman midfielder Dario Jovanovski launched a cross into the center of the box, and senior forward Wuilito Fernandes fired the ball past Binghamton redshirt freshman goalkeeper Alejandro Cubillo. The 72nd-minute tally came off the River Hawks’ first shot on goal and put them ahead, 1-0.
“I really liked the way that our guys responded to the [UMass Lowell] goal,” said BU head coach Paul Marco. “They didn’t quit and they had belief.”
The game’s eventful second half contrasted from the first frame. Neither team registered a shot opportunity in the first 10 minutes. In the 12th minute, Binghamton generated the first scoring chance when redshirt sophomore forward Isaiah Barrett notched an attempt on goal. This proved to be the only shot on goal by either team in the first half, and one of only four shots that BU registered in the first 45. The Bearcats’ defense held its own, limiting the River Hawks to five total shots, and none on goal.
The River Hawks dominated both overtime periods, outshooting BU, 7-1. UML nearly converted on a header, but Cubillo made a clutch save to keep it knotted at one.
“The effort was outstanding by our boys,” Marco said. “We were very good at playing soccer and very good at competing.”
While the Bearcats were outshot, 16-11, they managed to hold UMass Lowell to only four shots on goal. The lack of quality attempts is a testament to the recent strong play of the back four: senior Zach Galluzzo, redshirt freshman Stephen McKenna, Novoth and Flesch.
Also worth noting is Binghamton’s youth. With only five seniors total — and just one who traveled to Lowell — the Bearcats could easily fall back and consider this a rebuilding year. Instead, the young team has progressed quickly and contributed substantially to BU’s early-season success.
“For us to go there and play as well as we did with the young group that we have — they’re growing every day,” Marco said. “I can’t wait to watch the guys play [next Saturday].”
BU is set to return to the field on Saturday against Hartford. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.