The Binghamton women’s soccer team split a pair of nonconference road games this weekend, tying Bryant in a scoreless match on Friday and capturing a victory yesterday, 3-0, against LIU Brooklyn on Sunday. Although BU (6-1-3) struggled to convert off multiple set pieces, it was able to pick up one win on the trip.
“We were up against a tough opponent in Bryant, who is doing very well this year,” said BU head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “We had a decent challenge, but we wanted to do more as far as attacking is concerned.”
The Bulldogs (5-1-2) struggled on the offensive side as well, missing key opportunities at the end of regulation due to offside penalties. The two squads played a tough 110 minutes of stalemate soccer.
“I give a lot of credit to Bryant’s defensive capabilities,” Bhattacharjee said. “On the other side, we settled for taking just one long distance shot at a time. We needed to get more bodies in the box to make more passes and create better angles.”
Most notably, the Bulldogs shut down the three-time America East Player of the Week, redshirt junior forward Kayla Saager. The Bearcats’ top goal scorer struggled to find the back of the net, despite having numerous free kick and corner kick opportunities throughout the 110-minute battle with Bryant. The uncharacteristic play from BU’s undisputed offensive leader, however, did not hinder the Bearcats’ defense and goalkeeping.
In the last two minutes of the first overtime period, Binghamton senior goalkeeper Katie Hatziyianis ran out a couple of yards and made an impressive clutch save. White Bryant jerseys surrounded the experienced goalie, who was without a defense momentarily. She would step up again in the second overtime with only four minutes remaining to make another clutch save and preserve the scoreless tie.
“Katie is fantastic, she gives us a lot of leadership out there,” Bhattacharjee said. “When you need her to make that big save she’s there and she is always capable of making that big-time save.”
Hatziyianis saved two other shots on goal in a game that featured very few scoring chances. While Binghamton only took one shot on goal in the first period, the Bulldogs were unable to post any. Bryant, however, turned its offense up a notch in overtime, taking three of its four shots on goal in the 20-minute double-overtime frame.
Despite out-fouling Bryant, 11-8, and only logging three corner opportunities to the Bulldogs’ eight, the young Binghamton defense held its own against a strong offense on the road.
The Bearcats’ offense was far more effective on Sunday, however, netting three goals against the Blackbirds (2-6-1). The BU offense would find its groove in the second half after Saager found the back of the net in the 49th minute off an assist from sophomore forward Ryan Reilly.
“We didn’t quite get it in the first half, but we knew we were wearing our opponent [LIU Brooklyn] down,” Bhattacharjee said. “We have a good five-person rotation on the front line that keeps everyone fresh and ready to attack.”
Saager’s score would prove to be contagious for the Bearcats, as junior midfielder Patty Loonie and freshman forward Essie Bonney each netted a goal late in the match to secure BU’s victory. Bonney continued to display starter-quality play off the bench, playing for a total of 43 minutes.
Binghamton’s offense played aggressively in Brooklyn, recording 20 shots and placing 11 on goal. Defensively, the Bearcats put on another clinic, allowing just four shots on goal and zero corner kicks.
Bhattacharjee appeared happy with his team coming out of nonconference play with an impressive record after going unbeaten on the road. Playing away from home is something that the Bearcats have successfully worked around. The team has played just one home game this month and is scheduled to play the last two games of September on the road in New Hampshire and Albany.
“We wanted to jump off a springboard with a lot of confidence heading into conference play, and I think we did just that today,” Bhattacharjee added.
The Bearcats are set to begin conference play Sunday, Sept. 24, against New Hampshire. Kickoff from Bremner Field is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Durham, New Hampshire.