With the Binghamton men’s soccer team clinging to a one-goal second-half lead against No. 23 New Hampshire, sophomore midfielder Noah Luescher launched a shot past Wildcats’ graduate student goaltender Lars Huxsohl, and after extending the Bearcats’ lead to two, Luescher leaped into the stands, with his family waiting to celebrate.
“That was just great,” Luescher said. “That’s what story soccer writes, honestly. It was just a great moment, great feeling for me.”
It was a special Saturday in Binghamton during Family Weekend. The 3,265 fans in attendance at the Bearcats Sports Complex set a new record high, and among them were several relatives of Luescher.
“My whole family’s in town today, so it was a really special game for me,” Luescher said. “Playing in front of them just gave me some more motivation, and to have an assist, have a goal, it was great. Celebrating with my dad, it was a really special game for me.”
The family of Luescher, a native of Switzerland, arrived in Binghamton the day before the game. They proudly displayed a Swiss flag in the front row, making them easy for him to find after the goal. It wasn’t just Luescher who performed brilliantly in a 2-1 win for the Bearcats (3-5-2, 2-0-0 America East) — it was a team effort. From start to finish, Binghamton outplayed UNH (6-2-1, 1-1-0 AE).
“I thought we were spectacular today,” said BU head coach Paul Marco. “The start of the match, the guys’ energy was great. We were useful with the ball. The guys stuck to the game plan.”
The Wildcats suffered their first loss since opening day against No. 15 Virginia.
After a scoreless first half, graduate student midfielder Kevin Flesch knocked in a header off a free kick from Luescher to put the Bearcats on the board.
“To be honest, the only time I’m really up there is on set pieces,” Flesch said. “I’ve been working on my timings and my techniques on hitting the ball. I’m happy that I could help the team with that, and I think it’s extremely important to get the lead first.”
Flesch, a midfielder better known for his defensive contributions, has now scored in back-to-back games, tripling his previous career goal total of one.
“He’s a stud,” Marco said. “He’s a center back who enjoys the ball. He has been great with his timing, both in the air and on his tackles. I thought he’s playing the best I’ve seen. And I think he’s got another level.”
It took a penalty kick in the 86th minute for New Hampshire to get past redshirt junior goalie Chris Shutler. Shutler finished the game with three saves and has only allowed one goal in his two conference appearances this season.
The goal proved to be too little, too late for the Wildcats. The team fell 2-1 to BU, and the Bearcats jumped out to a 2-0 start in conference play.
“The last few games we’ve done a good job of minimizing our errors and mistakes,” Marco said. “And we’ve put pressure on the opponent late in the game, and UNH, they’re a great team. They only have two losses on the season, and one of them was today.”
Through the first weekend of conference play, only Binghamton and Stony Brook remain undefeated. Despite the strong start, Marco knows that it is a difficult road ahead for his team.
“The conference is extremely tight,” Marco said. “All the games will be very close, and for us to be 2-0, it’s a great feeling. But still haven’t accomplished anything yet, just getting ready for the next match.”
Binghamton’s next game is a nonconference matchup against West Virginia, Marco’s alma mater. He also served as the Mountaineers’ head coach from 1996 to 2001.
“It’ll be an emotional night for me because I played for the Mountaineers,” Marco said. “But make no doubt about it, I’m going with the Bearcats.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2 from Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia.