Friday, August 01, 2014 - 5:53:50 AM

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Despite tough loss, Bearcats clinch playoff berth

VESTAL, N.Y. - Visiting Vermont (6-8-3, 3-3-2 AE) scored a disputed goal with 2:35 remaining in the second overtime to post a 2-1 win over Binghamton (8-7-2, 3-4-1 AE) in the regular-season finale for both teams Sunday afternoon from the Bearcats Sports Complex. Despite the loss, Binghamton earned a postseason berth when New Hampshire was defeated earlier in the afternoon. The sixth-seeded Bearcats, who will make their eighth playoff appearance in the last 10 years, now face the long trek to Orono to play third-seeded Maine in a quarterfinal game on Thursday.

The Catamounts needed a win to make the playoffs and did so in dramatic fashion with their season reaching its final three minutes. Freshman Caitie Green sent a shot from outside the box that slipped through the hands of BU keeper Stephanie Speirs and bounced toward the far post. In a race to the post, freshman forward Nikki McFarland appeared to swat home the waist-high loose ball in the goalmouth, setting off a simultaneous Vermont celebration and Binghamton protest. The Bearcats, who needed only a tie to assure themselves of a postseason bid, got the necessary help anyway when host UMBC scored twice late to overcome New Hampshire 2-1.

I thought we outplayed them and it hurts to take that loss but we are in the playoffs, head coach Sarah McClellan said of her team, which outshot Vermont 16-8 and had several golden opportunities. One team is over there celebrating (Vermont) and our players are crying. We are unhappy about losing and that will provide motivation and extra willpower to make a statement in the playoffs. I think you will see a lot more urgency and a harder work rate from us. I feel very good about how we are playing right now.

On Senior Day, the visitors absorbed heavy early pressure by BU and struck first 14:03 into the game. Junior Bre Pletnick accepted a feed into the middle, spun and unleashed a half-volley from 20 yards that clipped the top left netting.

The Bearcats kept on the attack and nearly netted the equalizer when junior defender Connie Gormleys shot rang off the crossbar with 11:09 left in the first half. But less than four minutes later, freshman forward Michele Galvin converted. With 7:45 left before intermission, second-year back Genevieve Crescenzo made a nice run with the ball on the right side, eluding two Catamount defenders and hitting the endline before cutting back a ball back in traffic. Galvin struck a right-footed shot from eight yards into the far corner for her third goal of the season.

The teams then played a scoreless second half and first overtime before Vermont was awarded the winner.

The Bearcats thought they had the game-winner with 4:20 left in the first extra session when Gormley alertly took a quick free quick and slotted a through ball to freshman forward Stephani Church, who beat the rushing keeper with a low ball. But the play was whistled back on an offsides call.

Gormley also created a chance with a dazzling run through the middle of the field midway through the second half. She intercepted a pass in her defensive half and blew past several Vermont players before the final defender broke up her dribble. Junior midfielder Emily Nuss also had a golden chance to the left of the net with just over 10 minutes left in regulation. Nuss broke free and chipped the ball over Vermont keeper Morgan Nichols. She chased down the loose ball with an empty net available but her sharp-angled shot was cleared away by a Catamounts defender as it rolled toward the net.

Binghamton played three keepers in the game. Junior Gaby Gold started and worked the first half. Senior Carrie Martin played the first 22 minutes of the second half and Speirs replaced Martin and played the final 43 minutes. Speirs kept the game tied with a nice save with 3:56 left in regulation. Vermont had a dangerous through ball near the top of the box that Speirs raced out and smothered just as the Vermont forward reached the ball.

The Bearcats had an 8-1 margin in corner kicks.

Beforehand, Binghamton honored its seven graduating seniors. Playing their final home games as Bearcats were: Liz Cusato, Emma Kurth, Carrie Martin, Kaitlyn Martin, Stephanie Speirs and Sophie Sylla.

America East Championship
Quarterfinals - Thursday, October 31
No. 5 Vermont at No. 4 Hartford, 6 p.m.
No. 6 Binghamton at No. 3 Maine, 1 p.m.

Semifinals - Sunday, November 3
Vermont/Hartford winner at No. 1 UMBC, 1 pm
Binghamton/Maine winner at No. 2 Stony Brook, 2 p.m.
Final - Saturday, November 9 or Sunday, November 10
Semifinal Winners at Highest Remaining Seed, TBD

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