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HISTORY! Bearcats take share of AEast Title; first time since 2004

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VESTAL, N.Y. - Freshman back Erin Theiller volleyed home a corner kick rebound 3:56 into overtime to give Binghamton women's soccer (11-3-4, 5-2-1 America East) a riveting 3-2 win over Hartford Sunday afternoon from the Bearcats Sports Complex. The win gave BU a share of the America East regular season title (with New Hampshire) - the program's first since 2004 - and the No. 2 seed for the upcoming conference tournament. 

In a wild game that featured five goals, a saved penalty kick and loads of drama, Theiller picked a great time to notch her first collegiate goal. Redshirt forward Kayla Saager took a long pass down the left side and deftly dribbled endline before touching the ball off a Hawks' defender for the corner kick. Saager then curled her corner high into the box and just off the outstretched hands of Hartford keeper Maia Perez. The ball bounced to Theiller, who calmly sent her left-footed volley into the back of the net for the game-winner. Saager's assist was her seventh of the season. She ranks 10th in the nation in points (29). 

"I'm trying to comprehend it all," head coach Neel Bhattacharjee said afterwards. "On a day like today ... finding a way to get this result ... I've been in this game a long time and I've never seen everything thrown at a team like this. But they rose to the occasion today. I'm really proud of this team and so excited we are going to the postseason and having fun doing it."

The Bearcats jumped out to a 2-0 lead less than nine minutes into the game before Hartford turned the tables. The Hawks got one back in the 15th minute and took over possession the rest of the first half. Late in the half BU lost its center midfielder and leader Carly Barnett to an injury and then just 50 seconds into the second half, Hartford scored the equalizer and the momentum seemed to have swung in favor of the guests. 

In the 75th minute, BU suffered another blow when the Hawks sprung through on a breakaway and sophomore back Sam O'Malley was whistled for a foul as she contested what would've been an open net finish for the Hartford forward. The call was a red card and ejection for O'Malley and a penalty kick for the Hawks. But Julia Carr's ensuing 12-yard shot to the lower right corner was saved by a diving Katie Hatziyianis, who returned to the lineup after missing the previous four games with an injury. Hatziyianis wound up with seven saves, including another big save with 10:47 left in regulation. 

Early on it looked like BU was going to steamroll Hartford in a game pitting two teams tied in the standings. Just 6:09 into the game, BU grabbed the lead. Sophomore forward Ryan Reilly drove down the right wing and sent a cross to the near post where freshman forward Genna Michitti collected it on the run and essentially walked it into the goal for her third tally of the season. 

Then just 2:10 later, O'Malley sent a ball to freshman midfielder Dora Hayes in the middle and Hayes spun and slotted her third collegiate goal to the far corner. 

Binghamton will begin its postseason by hosting the winner of the Thursday quarterfinal between third-seeded Albany and sixth-seeded Vermont at 1 p.m. next Sunday at the Bearcats Sports Complex. The championship game is the following weekend, Nov. 4 or 5 at the highest-seeded remaining team. 

NOTES
The regular season title is the program's first since the 2004 team won both the regular season and tournament titles ... The team's No. 2 tournament seed is its highest since 2009 ... Binghamton will host a postseason game for the first time since the 2009 team beat Maine on penalty kicks in the semifinals ... The team's current win percentage (.722) is the highest in the program's Division I history ... it's 11 regular season wins is second-most behind the 2004 team (12) ... The team is assured of finishing with the fewest losses in the program's 17-year Division I tenure.

(Courtesy: BU Athletics)