The Binghamton women’s lacrosse team’s historic season came to a close Friday night in Stony Brook, New York. Facing Albany in the semifinals of the America East (AE) Tournament, the Bearcats (8-9, 5-2 AE) surrendered a late-game scoring run to the Great Danes (9-8, 6-1 AE), ultimately dropping the game, 16-10.
Friday’s game was the first ever AE Tournament game for the Binghamton women’s lacrosse program. The team accumulated a record eight wins and five conference victories, making this season the program’s most successful since it was founded in 2002.
“It’s been a great season and I could not be more proud of the women on this team,” said BU head coach Stephanie Allen, per bubearcats.com. “We would have liked to have won tonight, but as a whole, the season was a success.”
Yet despite breaking all of these barriers, it was the barrier the Bearcats couldn’t break that ultimately ended their season, as the team still has not found a way to take down Albany. The two programs have played 17 games against each other since 2002, and Albany has won each and every one of them.
In Friday’s showdown, two young players in particular proved to be the Bearcats’ undoing. Albany freshman attack Kyla Zapolski blasted the Bearcats with five goals to lead all scorers. Great Danes sophomore midfielder Sam Tortora, meanwhile, contributed a hat trick of her own, along with four assists — four more than the entire Binghamton team accumulated.
It was a Tortora-assisted goal that began the scoring for the game, giving Albany an early lead less than two minutes into play. The Great Danes put up three more over the course of the next 10 minutes before Binghamton scored its first of the game nearly 15 minutes in, courtesy of senior attack Tiffany Ryan.
The latter half of the first half featured the Bearcats settling in, slowly eating away at Albany’s lead. Senior midfielder Jacqueline Kennedy contributed two goals during this period, and the Bearcats ultimately managed to pull within one. A player-up goal by Zapolski with nine seconds on the clock put the halftime score at 7-5.
Thriving off the momentum they gained from their steady comeback in the first, the Bearcats burst out of the gates to start the second, scoring three unanswered to take a one-goal edge. With such a burst, it seemed that Binghamton could truly have been on its way to finally taking down its in-state rivals, but the feeling did not last long.
The Zapolski-Tortora duo began to heat up, propelling Albany ahead. Zapolski scored twice in the second period on assists from Tortora, while Tortora herself scored two goals as the middle of the half was dominated by Albany. By the time the 8-0 run was over, less than 10 minutes remained on the clock, and the Bearcats were in a seven-goal hole. They went on to lose the game by six. Kennedy, Ryan and redshirt senior attack Brianne Arthur each scored three times in the losing effort.
Despite the disappointing loss, the weekend was not without Bearcat successes. The AE Tournament banquet, held the night before, saw several Bearcats honored. Kennedy earned a spot on the first team all-conference for the first time in her career, while five Bearcats made the second team all-conference, including Arthur and junior midfielder Rebecca Golderman. In all, eight Bearcats received accolades at the banquet.
Having eliminated Binghamton, Albany moved on to the championship game of the tournament yesterday, where it took on the host team, No. 1 Stony Brook, who crushed New Hampshire in the other semifinal game. Stony Brook defeated Great Danes, 22-14, extending its streak of AE championships to six consecutive seasons.
As for Binghamton, the team has finally achieved its long-time, ever-elusive goal of reaching the AE Tournament. Having lifted that curse at long last, it seems as though the program is finally ready to take the next step forward.