Last year, in 18 games, Binghamton University’s women’s soccer team scored only 12 goals. This year, in the Bearcats’ eighth game, they netted their 13th goal of the season. BU’s offensive turnaround has contributed greatly to the team’s 5-1-2 start. Both the stellar play of redshirt junior forward Kayla Saager and the team’s fluid offense have played a major factor in Binghamton’s success.
“Kayla’s certainly had her share in terms of goals and assists, but it’s been shared,” said BU head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “If it’s not Kayla [scoring], and she’s getting double-teamed, it just opens up lanes and shots for other people.”
The Bearcats earned points in each of their past two games, as well as every match this season, tying Lafayette, 1-1, on Thursday and defeating Cornell, 2-0, on Sunday. Against the Leopards (2-3-1), Binghamton reverted to last year’s form in the first 45 minutes, unable to move the ball crisply and failing to create scoring opportunities. Lafayette had a 5-0 advantage in shots, forcing senior goalkeeper Katie Hatziyianis to make several saves to keep the game at a draw.
“It was our poorest half of the year,” Bhattacharjee said. “We were fortunate not to be down at halftime. Katie made two absolutely brilliant saves in that first half — otherwise, we would’ve been down 2-0.”
The Bearcats played the second half with a renewed offensive energy, creating several more chances than they did previously and tallying nine shots in the half. After allowing a goal in the 61st minute, BU quickly responded by tying up the match with a goal from Saager. Despite multiple opportunities throughout the remainder of the game, Binghamton failed to bury a tie-breaking goal, resulting in a 1-1 draw.
“We felt that an opportunity slipped,” Bhattacharjee said. “If you don’t play for 45 minutes, you get penalized. [We] could’ve won it in the second half or overtime, but it’s on us that we didn’t hold the first 45 minutes with quality play.”
In just a three-day turnaround, Binghamton looked to redeem itself against Cornell (1-3). An aggressive start from Saager and sophomore forward Ryan Reilly gave the Bearcats an early 2-0 lead. In the second half, Cornell upped its pressure in attempts to get back into the game. Despite Big Red’s efforts, BU maintained its advantage throughout, securing the shutout victory. Binghamton dominated throughout the game, outshooting Cornell, 17-6. The victory marked Hatziyianis’ first solo shutout of the season.
“We talked about playing a more complete game and getting off to a good start,” Bhattacharjee said. “The first 45 minutes were fantastic. At the end of the day, it ended up being a really solid win.”
Along with the offense’s improvement since last season, the play of Hatziyianis has also been exceptional. Allowing under one goal per game and boasting a .814 save percentage, she has anchored a defense that’s shut down a number of opposing offenses.
Coupled with Hatziyianis’ play, the Bearcats’ offensive improvement has added an element to their identity that did not exist in 2016. The team will need this development to carry into America East Conference play to improve on last year’s 2-6 record in conference play.
“We’re not a one-dimensional team,” Bhattacharjee said.
Binghamton’s next game is scheduled against Bryant University on Friday in Smithfield, Rhode Island. Kickoff from Bulldog Stadium is expected at 3 p.m