Fighting for a final spot in the America East (AE) Conference playoffs, the Binghamton women’s soccer team seemed in a decent position for a postseason run when things suddenly went awry. Up 1-0 against New Hampshire, with less than four minutes to go, Wildcats junior forward Kaylan Williams brought the game to overtime, and junior forward Ally Reynolds won the game for New Hampshire with a quick goal, eliminating the Bearcats. Now only six teams remain in the fight for the AE title.
The first-seeded Stony Brook Seawolves (11-6-1, 6-1-1 AE) will be the team to watch for this postseason as they go for a back-to-back championship run. Stony Brook defeated Vermont 2-1 to win the AE Championship game last season. Getting back to that championship could be easier now that the Seawolves are the top seed and get home-field advantage in the postseason. Stony Brook is 6-0-0 at home this season, outscoring opponents 20-3, while only 5-6-1 while away, outscoring opponents 17-14. The Seawolves were nearly perfect in conference games, only falling to New Hampshire and drawing against Albany.
Stony Brook’s greatest weapons are senior forward Julie Johnstonbaugh and sophomore forward Alyssa Francese, who both scored nine goals and 19 overall points for the season. Seawolves’ sophomore goalkeeper Sofia Manner contributed toward eight shutouts on her way to 1.19 goals allowed per game. These three players will need to continue to step up if this team wants to win another AE title.
The Hartford Hawks (13-2-2, 6-1-1 AE), while occupying the No. 2 seed, are possibly the most dangerous AE team in playoff contention, having only lost twice the entire season. The Hawks’ only conference loss against Stony Brook, a game they dropped in overtime after leading for much of the game, booted them to the No. 2 seed. Hartford outscored its opponents 41-15 this season, allowing only two goals in the first half throughout the entire length of the season.
One big strength for Hartford is its balance of skill between players. Its top three scorers are all within one goal of each other with seven, eight and nine goals, respectively. One of those shooters to look out for in the playoffs is sophomore forward Gabriela Gamory. While she is neither the leading goal scorer nor the lead point scorer for the Hawks, she owns a .583 shooting percentage and has seven goals despite playing almost 400 fewer minutes than the next leading scorer. She played nearly the full game in Hartford’s last two games and could make a big difference in the playoffs.
The Albany Great Danes (11-6-2, 5-2-1 AE) clinched the third seed after defeating Binghamton 1-0 in the final game of the season. The Great Danes have been heating up lately, winning five out of their last six and, like Stony Brook, performing significantly better at home. Albany is 6-1-1 at home versus just 4-5-1 away. A player to watch for Albany is senior forward Mariah Williams, who leads the AE with 15 goals and 32 points on the season.
Despite a shaky season, UMass Lowell (6-8-4, 4-3-1 AE) finds itself as the No. 4 seed in the playoffs this season. The team has been outscored by opponents 34-30, but has shown it can compete within the division, posting a 4-3-1 conference record. Most recently, UMass Lowell took Stony Brook to overtime, but lost 1-0. The player to watch on this team is graduate student midfielder Rachel Morrier, who is third in the AE in both goals with 10 and points with 26.
Vermont (6-8-3, 4-3-1 AE) is another team that may seem like an underdog, but can raise some eyebrows in the playoffs. The team is 4-3-1 in conference play and forced a draw against Hartford earlier in the season. No player on the Catamounts has more than four goals on the season. However, freshman goalkeeper Lydia Kessel has a noteworthy .069 GA per game in the six games she has played this season, and could help Vermont in its quest to return to the championship game.
Even with its 3-4-1 conference record, New Hampshire (7-8-2, 3-4-1 AE) found its way into the final playoff spot in the AE. While UNH does not score many goals, averaging less than a goal a game, the Wildcats have shown they can beat strong teams. Their signature wins include a 1-0 shutout victory over Stony Brook, showing they cannot be counted out.
The tournament will get underway today with two matches. No. 5 Vermont will face off against No. 4 UMass Lowell, and No. 6 New Hampshire will battle No. 3 Albany. Top-seeded Stony Brook and No. 2 Hartford will face the winners of those games, respectively, on Sunday, Oct. 28.