Following a disappointing 2-1 loss to Army on the road, the Binghamton women’s soccer team returned home and shut out the Iona Gaels to split a pair of weekend nonconference matchups. Redshirt senior forward Kayla Saager scored in both games for Binghamton (2-1-1), including the game-winning shot against Iona (1-3).
“This is a team that keeps growing,” said BU head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “One thing that we really take pride in is that every day we talk about getting better … as a team we’re growing, we’re seeing different teams, different styles and that’s going to prepare us once we get to America East play.”
In Friday’s game at West Point, neither the Bearcats nor the Black Knights (3-0-1) managed to get on the scoreboard in the first half. Binghamton freshman goalkeeper Haylee Poltorak started in net and stopped all three shots on goal, but the Bearcats themselves only managed two shots on goal in the period.
Saager scored the opening goal of the match in the first minute of the second half, but the lead didn’t last long. Army tacked on two scores in a barrage of eight second-half shots, both courtesy of freshman forward Kalie Rosenberger. The Bearcats could not get the equalizer and dropped the game, ultimately getting outshot 14 to seven and surrendering five corner kicks.
“I think we created a couple of good chances, but we had a couple of breakdowns … that we could have done better on,” Bhattacharjee said.
Yesterday’s game against Iona started off similarly, but the Bearcats soon found a way to cut deep into the Iona defense. Binghamton peppered the Gaels with shots, putting them on their heels and forcing freshman goalkeeper Emma Havrilla to make saves and stay on her toes. On defense, the Bearcats were solid, not allowing Iona entry into the box and ceding only two shots on goal that Poltorak easily saved.
“We’ve played a possession-oriented, methodical approach to the game, where we can break down opponents and that does lead to some high-quality scoring opportunities,” Bhattacharjee said. “I thought over the course of the last half of the first half and the second half we did a good job at creating those opportunities.”
Binghamton’s best opportunity in the first half came on a shot by sophomore forward Essie Bonney in the 39th minute, when she rifled a shot from just outside the box that grazed the crossbar. The Bearcats outshot the Gaels eight to two in the half, but for their strong effort the game was still tied at the break.
The Bearcats kept up the same level of play in the final 45 minutes, keeping their foot on the gas pedal. Iona was not able to secure possession for long enough to create scoring opportunities, leaving sophomore goalkeeper Mackenzie Hanna, who played the second half, with no saves to make.
“We were aggressive in terms of our defensive shape,” Bhattacharjee said. “We wanted to meet them higher up in the field, including our outside backs, and when that happened it forced Iona to sit in a little bit with their wide players.”
Finally, Saager came through for the Bearcats once more, breaking the 0-0 tie with a shot off of a rebound from 14 yards out in the 74th minute. The score stood as the game-winner, as BU salted away the final 16 minutes without incident. Hanna was awarded the victory, her second of the season, while Saager’s game-winner puts her at three goals on the year to lead the team.
“Winning a Division I women’s soccer game, it’s not easy, so we’ll take it,” Bhattacharjee said. “We’ll take the result and move on.”
Binghamton’s victory against Iona comes on the precipice of a three-game road trip over the course of seven days. The road trip starts Friday, Aug. 31 when the team travels to Loretto, Pennsylvania to take on Saint Francis University. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.