The Binghamton women’s soccer team’s two-game winning streak was snapped by UMBC on Thursday night, setting up a do-or-die match against Vermont on Sunday afternoon that will decide whether the Bearcats (6-9-2, 2-5 America East) will clinch a playoff berth this season.
The Retrievers (6-9-1, 2-4-1 AE) won the game, 3-1, scoring two of their goals via penalty shots in the second half.
The Bearcats played a strong first half in which they outshot the Retrievers, 7-6. Despite the offensive pressure, BU conceded the lone first-half goal in the 25th minute. UMBC senior forward Alexa Quaranta found a lane and slotted the ball in the upper left of the net to give the Retrievers the advantage.
Heading into the final 45, the Bearcats stuck to their game plan, putting an abundance of pressure on UMBC in the final third.
“[They] were able to get some good midfield turnovers that led to offensive transition and some pretty good chances,” said BU head coach Neel Bhattacharjee.
The game stayed close until the first of three penalty kicks in the second half.
With the Retrievers leading, 1-0, in the 61st minute, Binghamton junior goalkeeper Katie Hatziyianis saved a penalty kick by UMBC freshman forward Nikki Saad to prevent the deficit from doubling. It was Hatziyianis’ second save off a penalty kick in BU’s last two games.
Ten minutes later, Hatziyianis found herself in the same situation, but failed to save the shot by junior midfielder Gabby Boehmer. The tally increased UMBC’s lead to 2-0.
In the 81st minute, Binghamton senior forward Leighann Bennett pounced on a deflected shot and scored her third goal of the season to bring the deficit back to one. Then, the Bearcats allowed UMBC a third penalty kick in the 88th minute following a foul by Hatziyianis that resulted in a red card.
The referee issued the card since Hatziyianis’ foul was on a goal-scoring opportunity. The Bearcats had taken away a defender to apply more attacking pressure and attempt to tie the game. After UMBC penetrated the box, Hatziyianis made contact with the offense player, knocking her to the floor.
Senior goalkeeper Haley Downin replaced Hatziyianis in the net, but was unable to save senior forward Preslie Quaranta’s penalty kick, which allowed UMBC to secure the victory, 3-1.
“We had our chances,” Bhattacharjee said. “We were able to put one away from Leighann Bennett, but in the end it wasn’t enough to overcome the three penalty kicks given in that half.”
Binghamton is now 0-4 in games in which the opposing team scores multiple goals. Bhattacharjee, however, is not overly concerned with the Bearcats’ offensive performance.
“I was pleased by the second-half effort,” Bhattacharjee said. “We pressured up high on the field and we created a lot of midfield turnovers in our favor. We need to do a better job getting some higher-quality chances.”
Binghamton outshot UMBC, 15-13, on the match and also had the advantage in saves, 7-4. The real difference maker in the game proved to be the three penalty kicks.
Now the Bearcats find themselves in a must-win situation as they take on Vermont (6-7-3, 1-4-2 AE) on Sunday afternoon. If they win, they are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. If not, they are eliminated from playoff contention.
Bhattacharjee needs players to step up and make significant contributions on Sunday. One such player is Downin, who will replace starter Katie Hatziyianis, who is suspended as a result of her red card.
“We understand what’s at stake in terms of a possible postseason berth,” Bhattacharjee said. “So our mindset is to step up and be ready to go.”
The game against Vermont is set to get underway on Sunday at 1 p.m. from Virtue Field in Burlington, Vermont.