On April 27, 2021, the residence of the Binghamton men’s lacrosse team on 74 Front St. erupted into flames, displacing nearly one-third of the athletes from their homes. Almost a year later, the lineup is set to return to the turf to take on a full slate of matchups.

“As a whole, the team is a little bit tighter,” said Binghamton head coach Kevin McKeown. “[The fire] was a growing opportunity and I think the upperclassmen grew a bit closer.”

The Bearcats ranked fifth in the 2022 America East (AE) men’s lacrosse preseason polls, projecting them just outside of a spot in the playoffs. However, with Stony Brook banned from competing in any AE playoff competition, Binghamton becomes one of six teams eligible to compete in the May tournament.

“I don’t think it’s where we’re capable of going,” McKeown said. “We have a really good group of senior leadership, we’ve got 11 seniors that I have a lot of faith in as players and people off the field … We try not to pay too much attention to the preseason polls.”

Ranked first in the polls was Vermont, who earned 36 total votes and is currently ranked 17th in the nation, per insidelacrosse.com. In the Bearcats’ penultimate matchup of last season, they beat the Catamounts 10-7 after driving four unanswered points past Vermont in the final quarter of the game to bust its near-perfect conference record.

“Vermont has been able to step up and win when it counts,” McKeown said. “It’s not like they blow people out. Every weekend in the [AE] is up for grabs. [Vermont] presents a challenge but a lot of our teams do as well.”

Last season, Binghamton posted a 5-4 record of exclusively conference matchups. Although the Bearcats beat UMass Lowell in their final game of the season, they failed to qualify for the AE tournament after UAlbany edged them out in the standings to take the final playoff spot.

Returning to the defensive end for BU are senior defender Drew Furlong and redshirt junior goalkeeper Teddy Dolan, who was named AE Defensive Player of the Year in 2021 and averaged 12.6 saves a game that year. McKeown named both men as team captains heading into 2022.

“They’re both extremely talented players,” McKeown said. “[Furlong] is a guy who’s really been hampered by injuries in the past two years … I really think he’s flying under the radar in terms of his talent and what he’s capable of. I think if he hadn’t had the injury trouble he’d be a preseason All-American candidate.”

In addition to Furlong, McKeown said that BU’s defensive midfield doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves.

“The defensive midfielders are a position group that doesn’t get a lot of attention,” McKeown said. “[Junior midfielders] Max Napoli and Luke Rosaschi are two guys returning from last year that played a lot. [Sophomore midfielder] Aaron Tebo is a local guy from Vestal that started to get in last year … I’m excited to see what those three guys can do.”

On offense, McKeown will look toward redshirt sophomore midfielder Thomas Greenblatt and senior attack Kevin Winkoff to help BU find the back of the net. Greenblatt bagged 16 goals and notched seven assists last season, while Winkoff added another 10 goals and six assists for the Bearcats in 2021. Heading into this season, Winkoff has tallied 33 total goals in his collegiate career.

“Winkoff offensively has been a key guy for us and a guy that we’ll lean on,” McKeown said. “We’ve got him down playing in attack where we’ve had him going back and forth in the midfield a lot in past years.”

In contrast to its 2021 schedule, Binghamton is set to open its season with seven nonconference games before AE play kicks off. Included in this string of matchups are games against Princeton, Bucknell and Hofstra.

BU’s first game of the season is scheduled against Marist on Saturday, Feb. 12. Faceoff is set for noon at the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.