Binghamton had all the momentum nearing the 80th minute of the America East (AE) Tournament Semifinals. The score was tied at zero, but the Bearcats (11-4-4, 5-2-1 AE) kept the pressure on Vermont’s side of the field for much of the second half.
The Bearcats’ leading scorer, redshirt junior forward Kayla Saager, edged past the Catamounts’ senior goalkeeper, Coco Speckmaier. Saager launched a shot at goal with no defenders blocking her path. The ball curved toward the goal and seemed like a sure score before being stopped, seemingly out of nowhere, by a Vermont (9-8-2, 3-4-1 AE) defender. The ball lingered in front of the goal for several seconds before being cleared.
Minutes later, the Catamounts’ junior midfielder Brooke Jenkins hustled in from the weak side to power in her first goal of the season, edging the ball past senior goalkeeper Katie Hatziyianis. While the Bearcats created several more scoring attempts in the game’s remaining eight minutes, they were unable to convert. The Bearcats fell to the Catamounts, 1-0, ending their playoff run. Vermont will head to Stony Brook for the AE Championship on Nov. 5.
The first half of the match was dominated with back-and-forth possessions and shots between the Bearcats and the Catamounts. Binghamton seemed to finally take control in the second half, but despite the constant offensive pressure, it still came up short.
“I thought our pressure was good,” said BU head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “You know, I honestly thought we were able to wear down our opponent.”
In the end, the Bearcats were shut out, failing to score on 14 shots, while the Catamounts managed one goal on 11 shots. Bhattacharjee was disappointed by the shutout.
“I thought we did well to create a good amount of scoring chances,” Bhattacharjee said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to convert.”
The Bearcats had numerous scoring opportunities throughout the match: Saager soared a corner kick that seemed liked it would tilt and score, and freshman midfielder Dora Hayes launched a shot to the extreme side of the goal, which was defeated by an expert dive from Speckmaier.
“It was one of those where you felt like it was coming — it was gonna come, it was gonna come, but it just didn’t at the end,” Bhattacharjee said.
The Bearcats were missing sophomore midfielder Carly Barnett and sophomore defender Sam O’Malley during Sunday’s match, but Bhattacharjee would not let that be an excuse for failing to pull through with a win.
“You lose their personality and what they can bring on the field, but you know, I was really happy with the adjustments we made,” Bhattacharjee said. “We’ve got good depth on this team and we talk about being 27 strong throughout the whole year. When different people have to step up at different times, they do.”
Unfortunately, even with everything going right for the Bearcats this season, they could not pull off the victory.
“That’s the nature of the game,” Bhattacharjee said. “It can be cruel and, unfortunately, it came at a very inopportune time and we’ll just move on.”
Despite the loss, Bhattacharjee was proud of his team.
“We’re obviously disappointed, frustrated,” Bhattacharjee said. “This isn’t at all how we envisioned the game would end and honestly how our season would end. We got a lot to be proud of. Those words seem kind of hollow right now, but you know, as we reflect back, we know we did a number of tremendous things this season.”
The Bearcats posted a program best .722-win percentage this season, tied for the regular-season AE title with New Hampshire and made it to the first-round semifinals. The team fielded Saager, who tallied the 14th most points in the nation going into this game.
“I just told them how proud I am,” Bhattacharjee said of his postgame speech to the team. “They’ve represented this University, this department with dignity, with pride. They’ve put Binghamton’s women’s soccer on the map, because it had kind of fallen off in recent years. They’ve got a lot to be proud of.”