The Binghamton women’s soccer team suffered a heartbreaking loss to Vermont on Sunday. BU (6-10-2, 2-6 America East) allowed a Catamount (7-7-3, 2-4-2 AE) goal with less than a minute remaining to fall, 1-0. The defeat eliminates the Bearcats from playoff contention and marks the second straight season they have failed to earn a postseason berth.
The Bearcats were optimistic going into the game, as they had recorded more AE wins than the Catamounts. Both teams had recorded just six total wins on the season. Records, however, didn’t matter once both teams hit the pitch.
Binghamton and UVM went back and forth throughout the first half. Possession time was almost completely even, although neither squad was able to capitalize.
“I thought it was a pretty even first half,” said BU head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “In the second half, what we did well was put more midfield pressure on Vermont, pushing them deeper into their own end. From that we were able to create more opportunities inside the box and get better looks at the net. The first half was not quite the attack we were hoping for, but in the second half we were able to get more going due to our pressure.”
Binghamton outshot Vermont, 18-13. Although the Bearcats edged the Catamounts in shots, they could not get the ball past UVM junior goalkeeper Coco Speckmaier, who made 10 saves in the match, seven of which came in the second half.
It was win or go home for both UVM and the Bearcats in the last two minutes. Players hit the ground left and right, as both teams believed physicality was key to extending their season. With fewer than six seconds to play, UVM senior forward Nikki McFarland made a move to create space, then quickly fired a shot into the top center of the net, putting Vermont up, 1-0, and sucking the life out of Binghamton and its playoff hopes.
Although Bhattacharjee was hoping for his players to be smarter with the ball at the end of the match, he praised them for their gritty performance on Sunday and throughout the regular season.
“I thought [freshman defender] Lauren Spinnato was fantastic in the back for us,” Bhattacharjee said. “She did a lot for us in cleaning up Vermont’s attack. [Senior backup goalkeeper] Haley Downin did very well in a very tough position, since she only got to play a few minutes on senior night, and was all of a sudden expected to play a full 90 minutes due to [junior goalkeeper] Katie Hatziyianis’ unfortunate red card on Thursday.”
Although the Bearcats failed to make the AE Tournament, they doubled their win total from last season, from three to six. Bhattacharjee plans to concentrate his efforts on improving the team’s fitness and fundamentals during the offseason.
“Last spring we focused a lot on bonding and forming a genuine team culture,” Bhattacharjee said. “That brought us a long way this year, along with fixing our style of play and our fitness. For this spring, we are going to keep the same focuses as last year, but we’re going to do them at a higher level. Our fitness is going to be better. We’re going to focus on our technical ability … we also want to work on having players feel comfortable playing multiple roles on the team in order to create more interchangeable parts.”