On Thursday, the Binghamton women’s soccer team played UMBC for its final regular season match before the America East (AE) tournament. The Bearcats needed a win over the Retrievers to secure first place, a feat they had only accomplished twice before in 2004 and 2017. BU went on to rout UMBC 5-0 and secure the AE regular season title.

“It’s really satisfying, but at the same time we know our mission isn’t done,” said Binghamton head coach Neel Bhattacharjee. “We saw this terrific opportunity where we had been getting results, putting a good stretch of performances for some solid wins … We knew we had this terrific chance to seize a regular season championship with a good performance at UMBC.”

The Bearcats (9-5-3, 6-1-1 AE) came at the game in an all-out attack from the jump, netting four goals in the first half from four different players. BU gained an early advantage when a UMBC (5-8-4, 1-5-2 AE) player earned a red card in the third minute, forcing the home team to be a player down for the remainder of the match. Binghamton’s first goal came in the 15th minute from junior midfielder Victoria McKnight. The Bearcat earned herself a chance on net after she tapped the ball at the last minute, forcing the keeper to lose possession, and then snuck the rebound past the Retriever to score.

“We got a bit of fortune when UMBC went down a man pretty early into the match, and then we were able to put some goals away,” Bhattacharjee said. “We know there’s still more. We earned the right to host, so now we see this wonderful opportunity for us to do well in the postseason and we know it’s not gonna be easy. We’ll be one of the top four teams left, and we certainly know anybody can win it in terms of how tight the conference is.”

Binghamton found its second goal of the night 10 minutes later thanks to freshman defender Brooke Herber, who earned her first career goal. Soon after, in the 33rd minute, BU extended its lead to three after sophomore midfielder Hannah Knych scored. The Bearcats added their fourth and final goal of the half when junior defender and season debutant Emma Colling scored her first career goal from an assist by Knych.

“All five goals were a little bit different which I loved,” Bhattacharjee said. “We scored two off of set pieces, one from [Herber] and one from [Colling] … [Colling] did really well for us at the center back position and we pushed her up for set pieces. It was great for her not to just have a strong performance, but also to get a goal. We saw a nice strike from [sophomore forward Peyton Gilmore] in the second half, [Knych] finishing an opportunity close to goal and [V. McKnight] showing why she made all-conference with a quality goal of her own.”

Binghamton didn’t stop there, bagging another goal in the second half, this one coming from Gilmore, her seventh of the season. Although BU produced a lesser offensive output in the second half, it still maintained control of the match, holding UMBC to another scoreless 45 minutes. The win marked the fourth victory of the year with a clean sheet. Sophomore goalkeeper Kaitlyn Williams faced no shots in the first half thanks to Binghamton’s suffocating defense. In the second half, however, senior goalkeeper Nicole Scott saw six attempts and made two saves to protect her goal.

“Pretty solid performance throughout,” Bhattacharjee said. “[Williams] did well for us in goal in the first half and [Scott] came on in the second half. [Scott] ended up getting tested a little bit more because UMBC was going a little bit more direct, knowing that they were down at halftime.”

With the victory, BU earned itself the No. 1 seed in the AE tournament. This gives the team home-field advantage throughout the postseason along with a first-round bye. The Bearcats are looking for their second AE Championship and first since 2004.

The Bearcats’ next game will be played on Thursday, Nov. 3 for the conference semi-final match against UAlbany. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.