With a two-game losing skid to shake off, the Binghamton University men’s lacrosse team is preparing to take on Quinnipiac University in its final nonconference tune-up before the important America East matches begin.
The Bearcats (2-4), whose only two wins have come at home, are entering their second of three straight road contests against the winless Bobcats (0-6). Though they haven’t won a game yet, the Bobcats have been within three or fewer goals of their opponent in all of their past four games. Concordantly, Bearcats head coach Scott Nelson is not taking them lightly.
“This is a good test for us,” he said. “This team has a very poor record, but they have some very good young players. They’re playing a lot of freshmen. It scares you as a coach that those guys could just get on a roll.”
The Bearcats are coming off a tough one-goal loss to Manhattan, 11-10, this past Saturday in which they had multiple chances in the final seconds to tie it up, but couldn’t finish the job.
“Losing is losing,” Nelson said of close losses. “Our guys have had a good week, they’ve bounced back nicely. I think we have really bright kids who want to play, and that was disappointing, especially when you look at the stats, because we pretty much won every statistical category. So it’s tough to come back from, but we never gave up. One-goal losses are definitely tough but they have bounced back very well.”
Offensively, Binghamton has been anchored by the breakout season of sophomore midfielder Mike Antinozzi. He leads the entire America East Conference with 23 goals through six games and is tied for second in the country in goals per game (3.83). According to Nelson, his success is contributed to both his own merit as well as his teammates: fellow midfielders Tyler Perrelle and J.T. Hauck have 10 and nine assists, respectively.
“I think it’s been great,” Nelson said. “That midfield of [Antinozzi], Tyler and J.T. Hauck [has been] a great contribution to this. Tyler and J.T. have 19 assists in the midfield between the two of them, and that’s really unheard of. Mike is the recipient of those great passes; Mike can shoot it, and these guys have been passing it great.”
The connection between Antinozzi and Perrelle has them sitting at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in overall scoring in the America East. Nelson also commented that the passing-scoring dual threat prowess of Perrelle leads defenses to key in on him rather than Antinozzi, the leading goalscorer.
“Tyler actually gets more attention a lot of times because of his track record the last couple years, and Mike plays off that,” he said. “Tyler might get the best defender, and Mike gets a short-stick defender and can have a little more room and time than Tyler does. Tyler takes all the attention and gets it to Mike, who can really shoot the ball.”
Despite all the team has going for it offensively, Binghamton has yet to win a road game this season, which makes the Quinnipiac contest all the more pivotal.
“We’ve got to learn how to win on the road, no question,” Nelson said. “We’ve gotta come out and be pretty aggressive and smart from the beginning and learn how to win on the road before the conference starts.”
That all-important conference season is set to begin for Binghamton against University at Albany on Saturday, March 31. Nelson believes his team is on the right track, but is not yet where it needs to be for America East play.
“I would say approaching it, I wouldn’t say we’ve reached it,” he said. “We haven’t really thought about the conference yet … In lacrosse you really have to prepare one game at a time, because you don’t play a lot of games, and every game is so big.”
As a result, the team hasn’t yet begun to exclusively focus on conference play. But knowing that it is on the horizon is ever-present in Nelson’s mind.
“Right now we’re just really focused on Quinnipiac,” Nelson said. “Knowing that the conference season starts next week, of course, we do track those teams and see how they’re doing, see who’s doing what for them. But we really haven’t taken a real close look at Albany yet.”
Nelson is set to take his one-game-at-a-time approach into Quinnipiac hoping for the Bearcats’ third win of the season on Saturday before the America East Conference season begins.
Faceoff is set for 1 p.m.