Katherine Scott/Pipe Dream Photographer Redshirt junior forward Kayla Saager scored the team’s lone goal against New Hampshire, bringing her season total to eight.

Looking to carry over momentum built in nonconference play, the Binghamton women’s soccer team aimed to showcase its improvements this season after failing to make the America East (AE) playoffs in 2016. While the Bearcats (6-2-3, 0-1 AE) performed competitively against New Hampshire, a sluggish start to the game set the tone in a 2-1 loss against the Wildcats (7-3-0, 1-0 AE).

“We’re not satisfied with what we gave the first 45 minutes,” said BU head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “We gotta be a lot sharper. We need that to be shown over the course of 90 minutes on a consistent basis.”

While no goals were scored by either team in the opening half, the Bearcats were outshot 9-2 in that time frame. Missing sophomore defender Sam O’Malley due to injury, Binghamton left many seams open as the Wildcats appeared on the brink of breaking the game open. BU entered halftime fortunate to be in a scoreless draw.

“[O’Malley’s] nursing an injury, so we hope to get her back for the next game,” Bhattacharjee said. “We had a pretty hard talk at halftime … we showed fight from the very beginning of the second half.”

Adjusting its formation, BU worked to keep short touches in the middle of the field and force the ball outside defensively. The new strategy generated nine second-half shots.

“We wanted to play a little more compact in the midfield,” Bhattacharjee said. “We were tighter-knit in terms of stringing passes together.”

While the team did come out with new energy, Binghamton ceded a goal to junior midfielder Gaby Dorsey in the 64th minute. The Bearcats were more engaged in this half, however, and responded less than 10 minutes later with a goal from redshirt junior forward Kayla Saager, who dribbled through the Wildcat defense to score a rare unassisted goal. In the final minutes of the game, the Wildcats put through the winning goal.

“We weren’t able to quite get the equalizer at the end,” Bhattacharjee said. “We allowed New Hampshire to control possession and overall tempo of the game.”

After falling in the quarterfinals of last year’s AE Tournament and recording seven nonconference wins, New Hampshire presented a tough challenge for an improved Binghamton squad. After starting the match flatly, the Bearcats managed to recover and demonstrate their ability to play competitively against one of the AE’s most talented teams.

“We really showed the grit and mentality needed to compete with one of the better teams in the conference,” Bhattacharjee said. “If we’re fortunate enough to make the postseason and get another chance at New Hampshire, that’d be great.”

Saager recorded four shots on goal herself, but was unable to net a second goal. While the team tallied a lofty eight shots on goal, senior New Hampshire goalkeeper Mia Neas recorded seven saves to preserve its lead. After allowing one goal or fewer in over three weeks, Binghamton uncharacteristically allowed multiple goals to New Hampshire, highlighting O’Malley’s absence.

Binghamton will try again for its first conference victory of the season this Thursday at Albany. Kickoff from Bob Ford Field in Albany, New York is scheduled for 7 p.m.