The Binghamton men’s soccer team was down 2-0 with only 15 minutes left when sophomore midfielder Noah Luescher gave the Bearcats hope, not only stealing the ball right outside the attacking box, but drawing the penalty kick as well. Unfortunately for Binghamton (3-9-2, 2-2-0 America East), senior forward Nikos Psarras’ penalty was saved, and the Bearcats eventually lost, 2-1, to Bucknell.
Missed opportunities were the downfall of the Binghamton squad. From the missed penalty to failure to convert inside the box, the Bearcats had chances, but were unable to secure the necessary goals.
The game started off even, with both teams creating two good opportunities to score within the first five minutes. Both goalkeepers recorded saves to prevent a hot start on either side of the pitch. The deadlock was broken in the 31st minute as Bucknell (6-4-3, 3-1-1 Patriot League) created a two-on-one, which they cut back inside the box to take a 1-0 lead.
“Again, just bad defending in the box,” said BU head coach Paul Marco. “The toughness we lacked today inside the box cost us goals.”
The Bearcats looked to strike back just five minutes later when Psarras had a one-on-one with Bucknell junior goalkeeper Emmett Witmer, but a fine dive to the left by Witmer kept BU shut out.
“[Witmer’s] been good, he’s probably one of the best in the Patriot [League] and one of the top guys in college,” Marco said. “He does a good job on making big saves for them.”
Nevertheless, the Binghamton squad kept putting the ball in the box, and with seven minutes left in the half, Witmer was called upon to make another impressive save reaching back behind himself.
Coming out in the second half, the Bearcats struggled to find their ground. Just under eight minutes into the half, BU ceded another goal inside the box on a corner kick that was headed in. The score would have been extended to 3-0 shortly after, had redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Isaiah Pettis not made a terrific save on a shot to the upper 90.
Binghamton finally began attacking with 15 minutes remaining. Following a blocked shot, Luescher was able to steal the ball and drive into the box, drawing a penalty kick. Despite having the penalty blocked, the Bearcats continued to fight, had another shot inside the box blocked and then, in the 86th minute, senior midfielder Connor McKnight curled a ball in from outside the top of the box, assisted by Psarras.
Scoring inside the box has been an issue for the Bearcats all season, having only scored one goal from up close.
“All of our goals, like tonight, have come outside the box,” Marco said. “It’s unbelievable, I’ve never seen anything like it in all of my years coaching and playing.”
Marco emphasized that fixing their play inside both boxes is essential for the team to have success.
“We need to take a closer look at our competitive toughness in the boxes,” Marco said. “If we get that right, I think we have a really great shot at playing past the regular season.”
Currently, the Bearcats are in a five-way tie for second place in the AE with three games to play. With that in mind, Marco limited many of his players in the nonconference game against Bucknell.
“The game plan for tonight was to make sure [the] guys could train tomorrow,” Marco said. “I expect us to try to put the best team out on Saturday night.”
Up next, the Bearcats will return to conference play against UMBC on the road. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20 from the Retriever Soccer Park in Baltimore, Maryland.