The fate of the Binghamton men’s soccer team’s season fell to the foot of Vermont senior forward Brian Wright. His goal off a deflection with two minutes remaining in double overtime gave the Catamounts (13-5-2, 4-3 America East) a 2-1 win that eliminated the Bearcats (7-5-6, 4-3 AE) from the AE playoffs.
On Saturday afternoon, BU played one of the best games of its adversity-filled season. But against Vermont, BU’s strong play wasn’t good enough.
The Bearcats had hoped to put their regular season troubles behind them — injuries left BU with just one senior for much of the season — and repeat last season’s run to the conference championship game. Instead, Vermont’s late flourish ended it.
“The guys were extremely disappointed in the outcome, but I don’t think anybody is disappointed in how we played,” said BU head coach Paul Marco. “I think that we gave them the moment and they took it.”
Redshirt freshman Alejandro Cubillo, BU’s typically steady goalkeeper, couldn’t handle Shane Haley’s shot in the 109th minute. Wright found Cubillo’s soft deflection sitting at the front of the net before burying it.
“[The goal] was out of nothing,” Marco said. “The shot was fairly hard, but I watch Cubillo making those shots everyday in practice. He just didn’t take care of the ball, and their guy was in the right place at the right time.”
Standing next to the goal line, redshirt freshman back Stephen McKenna covered his eyes in disappointment and fell to the floor. Senior back Zach Galluzzo hunched over as he was consoled by his teammates. The game was Galluzzo’s last in a BU uniform.
“[Galluzzo] has had an outstanding year for us,” Marco said. “He’s had an outstanding career for us, and his better days are still ahead of him. I will surely miss him.”
Both teams were held scoreless in the first half as they struggled for possession in a tight match. The Bearcats and the Catamounts each took eight shots in the first 45 minutes.
It took until the 67th minute for BU to break the tie. Sophomore forward Nikkos Psarras slid the ball past Vermont freshman goalkeeper Aron Runarsson and into the bottom left corner of the net. Redshirt sophomore midfielder Isaiah Barrett slipped the ball past a Vermont defender before it reached Psarras in the penalty box.
Already ahead, 1-0, the Bearcats let Vermont control possession for the remainder of the second half. In the 87th minute, the Catamounts drew even. Senior forward Bernard Yeboah juked past BU sophomore back Kevin Flesch, chipping the ball into the upper corner of the net.
BU’s roster featured multiple seniors that lost most of the season to injury. Senior forward Logan Roberts’ year was marred by an ankle injury, while senior forward Alex Varkatzas sustained multiple broken ribs and a collapsed lung that ended his season in early September.
“Those guys obviously feel disappointed about the fact that they didn’t get to contribute on the field,” Marco said. “But they’re terrific, and I’m proud of the people they’ve become off the field.”
BU was outshot by Vermont, 26-19. The Bearcats struggled to convert possession in the attacking zone into shots on goal. According to Marco, the Bearcats will work on their play in the attacking third during the offseason.
“We have to get better in the attacking areas,” Marco said.
This year, BU was one of the youngest teams in the AE. The Bearcats will remain a young team next year. Senior midfielder Mike Kubik, who missed the season to injury, will return after redshirting. He’ll be joined as a senior by forward Ben Ovetsky and redshirt senior Charlie Novoth.
“[Kubik], Novoth and Ovetsky will likely be the only seniors,” Marco said. “But I’m looking forward to next season already.”