The last two games before conference play for the Binghamton women’s soccer team could not have been more different, but both ended with the same result: a win. Over the two games, the Bearcats (5-3-2) maintained a perfect home record, beating the Bryant Bulldogs 1-0 in overtime and the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds, 4-0.
“We’re just comfortable here,” said BU head coach Neel Bhattacharjee about the perfect home record. “We love this facility. We certainly get confidence from this; we get security.”
Not only has Binghamton been undefeated at home, but the team has yet to give up a single goal at home thus far this season.
“We have this mentality, this is our home field,” said senior defender Kaycee Pickard. “This is our house. We don’t let up goals here. We don’t lose here because this is our field. I think it gives everyone that confidence. That pregame ‘grrr.’”
In the first game against Bryant (4-4) on Thursday, BU played a tight game, coming through with a 1-0 victory about three minutes into overtime. Freshman goalkeeper Haylee Poltorak played two phenomenal games in each of the shutouts the Bearcats produced at home. Binghamton finally scored in the game against the Bulldogs after a goal by its lead scorer, redshirt senior forward Kayla Saager.
On senior day, the Bearcats overwhelmed LIU Brooklyn (2-6-1) in the beginning of the first half. White jerseys swarmed the opposition’s side of the field, relentlessly attacking the goal. Freshman defender Kayla MacKenzie took little time finding her way into LIU’s net. MacKenzie found an edge against a defender and scored right in front of the LIU cage, just 1:25 into the game. Binghamton kept pestering LIU throughout the beginning of the period, but failed to score as possessions began to even out. After some adjustments, BU engineered a monster second half.
Saager played a huge part in that surge. She came very close to scoring twice in the first half, breaking away from multiple defenders only to be stopped by LIU Brooklyn sophomore goalie Megan Virgin right in front of the goal. Then, Saager exploded in the second period, scoring two goals. One of them was almost blocked by Virgin before Saager vaulted over the goalie and hammered a shot to the back of the net. Saager has now scored eight goals in nonconference play so far this season. This comes after leading the nation in shots and leading the America East in points last season.
However, the game against LIU especially was a full-team effort with eight different subs taking the field at different times and three different scorers: Saager, MacKenzie and sophomore forward Essie Bonney.
“We talk about being 24 deep,” Bhattacharjee said. “It’s a warm day. We wanted to play more players within our rotation. If we did that, I felt like that was going to help us out in the second half where we could kind of keep the level of the pace going and hopefully lead to some goals, which it did.”
Bhattacharjee said the last few games gave Binghamton a huge wave of momentum moving into conference play.
“We got an overtime, kind of grind-it-out type of game win on Thursday night versus Bryant, and we had a 2-0 win here versus Cornell before that and then a tie. So, to get four straight results, the last three being wins, shutouts, that’s certainly a great feeling,” Bhattacharjee said.
The whole team echoes Bhattacharjee’s enthusiasm.
“With a bit of a rocky start at the beginning of the season, we just kind of found a groove now and now we’re just cooking with fire,” Pickard said.
However, despite the surge in the momentum, Bhattacharjee said he sees room to be careful. While undefeated at home, the Bearcats have still not won a road game this season and their first conference game will be against Vermont, a team they have struggled against in the past. Binghamton appeared poised for the challenge, though.
“Certainly we’ll be prepared for Vermont,” Bhattacharjee said. “They’re a team that’s kind of had our number the last couple of years and it’s a different animal once you get to America East play. Lots of one-goal games and so it’s something that we’ve certainly got to be ready and prepared for.”
The Bearcats will travel to Burlington, Vermont on Sept. 23 to play in their first conference game of the season against Vermont. Kickoff from Virtue Field is scheduled for 1 p.m.