Heading into yesterday’s game just one point shy of postseason contention, the Binghamton women’s soccer team had an opportunity to put itself on an inside track for a spot in the America East (AE) Tournament. Facing first-place Hartford, the Bearcats (7-7-2, 2-4-0 AE) ceded two goals in the game’s first 15 minutes and failed to mount a comeback, falling to the Hawks (12-1-2, 5-0-1 AE) on the road, 3-1. With sixth-place New Hampshire losing both of its matches this weekend, Binghamton now faces elimination from the postseason with a loss on Thursday, a home game against UNH (6-7-2, 2-3-1 AE).
“We had good possessions, put them under pressure and created a few high-quality opportunities late in the first half, but we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net,” said BU head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “We battled well in the second half. We gave up an unfortunate third goal and again, our spirits never wavered, got a goal back and kept playing until the end. I was really happy in terms of our mentality and our competitiveness, but we couldn’t get into a hole as early as we did.”
The matinee opened with Hartford’s offense thriving, as the Hawks put in two goals on its first two shots to begin the game. The team’s passing led to two point-blank opportunities which were converted by senior forward Ashley Claud and junior forward Kaila Lozada to give Hartford a quick 2-0 lead with 30 minutes in the first half remaining.
“Honestly, we were looking at the goals and we have to give credit to Hartford on the first one,” Bhattacharjee said. “We thought our defensive shape was pretty well. Hartford was just able to make a couple key passes and they got in … after that, I just felt we just got a little bit panicked in terms of our quality on the ball and our midfield play. We ultimately settled and made a couple of substitutions who had a good impact on the game.”
After calming the Hawks’ initial attack, the Bearcats were able to string together a couple chances before the end of the first half, though they could not put a shot on goal. Redshirt senior forward Kayla Saager and senior midfielder Patty Loonie each shot wide of the net before the Bearcats entered halftime trailing by two, keeping Binghamton at a significant deficit.
“I felt like when it was 2-0, if we were able to get a goal back, we felt that it would change things,” Bhattacharjee said. “I felt that we were good enough on the day to do that.”
The second half opened pretty evenly, with each team probing for chances and failing to gain momentum. In the game’s 63rd minute, Hartford retook control of the game, firing three shots on net in the ensuing eight minutes, one of which netted a pivotal third goal in the 69th minute. Hawks senior midfielder Hayley Nolan blasted a shot from 30 yards out which deflected off freshman goalkeeper Haylee Poltorak and into the net.
Binghamton responded in the 79th minute when Loonie headed in a corner kick from Saager to bring its deficit back to two, yet the game’s fate was essentially sealed at that point. The Bearcats struggled to produce offensively throughout the match, generating only four shots and Loonie recording the team’s lone shot on goal.
Binghamton now has only two games remaining on its regular season schedule and faces an uphill battle to return to the AE Tournament. A win on Thursday vaults BU two points ahead of UNH, while a loss eliminates the Bearcats from playoff contention.
“It’s a critical match on Thursday,” Bhattacharjee said. “It’s something that we’re going to have all of our focus and attention on. We’re just taking it one game at a time and focused on what we can do against New Hampshire at home on Thursday night.”
The Bearcats’ critical match against New Hampshire is scheduled to kick off on Thursday at 6 p.m. from the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.