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Saager, Bhattacharjee earn top Conference Honors

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VESTAL, N.Y. - After riding a regular-season-ending five-game unbeaten streak to claim a share of the America East crown, Binghamton women's soccer (11-3-4) was well represented on the all-conference teams. The conference released the teams and major award winners on Wednesday and the Bearcats garnered four all-conference, two all-rookie and two all-academic selections and had two of the six major award recipients.

Head coach Neel Bhattacharjee and his staff were recognized as co-Coaching Staff of the Year along with the New Hampshire group. Redshirt junior forward Kayla Saager was voted Striker of the Year after leading the conference in goals, assists and points. Saager was the team's lone first team all-conference selection but BU was granted three second-team slots for sophomore midfielder Carly Barnett, freshman midfielder Dora Hayes and freshman defender Erin Theiller. 

Seniors Katie Hatziyianis and Hannah Shankman were named to the All-Academic Team. Hayes and Theiller also made the All-Rookie Team.

"We are very proud of Carly, Kayla, Erin, Dora, Hannah and Katie for all of their impressive accomplishments this season," Bhattacharjee said. "This program has taken a significant leap in its overall competitiveness and was led by these talented student-athletes. Our entire group of 27 student-athletes has been performing at a high level throughout the fall season, which has improved each facet of our program. We are proud of these deserved individual and team accomplishments.

"I am very fortunate to work with the high caliber staff of professionals in Taylor Schram, Jackie Firenze and Kara Gorgos each day. This staff is dedicated to the development of each of our student-athletes and this is a testament to all of their efforts and commitment."

Saager leads a high-powered Binghamton offense that tops the America East in shots and corner kicks and ranks second in goals. She ranks 14th in the country in points (11 goals, 7 assists, 29 pts.) and has the third-highest scoring output in the program's 17-year Division I history. She has registered a goal or an assist in all but three BU games this fall.

Barnett and Hayes have anchored a Binghamton midfield that has controlled time of possession on nearly every opponent this season. Hayes has three goals and Barnett has added two assists. Both have been instrumental in organizing the team's attack and its defensive shape game-in, game-out. Theiller, meanwhile, has made a seamless transition from high school to college soccer and has led a BU back line that has produced a conference-best eight shutouts and a league-low 15 goals against (0.83). She has played all but 13 minutes the entire season (99%) and capped her season by scoring the title-clinching overtime goal to beat Hartford on Sunday. 

Hatziyianis (3.88 GPA in biology) and Shankman (3.99 in history and philosophy, politics and law) have served as captains vital leaders of the program during the Bhattacharjee transition. Hatziyianis ranks third in the America East in goals against average (0.93), third in save percentage (.831) and fourth in shutouts (4). Her dramatic penalty kick save late in regulation against Hartford preserved a then 2-2 tie and created the opportunity for the Bearcats to win the game in overtime. Shankman has one of the highest senior grade-point averages (in a double major) among all student-athletes at Binghamton and throughout the conference. She also has been a pivotal member of the BU back line that has limited opponents to seven goals in the last 11 games. 

Bhattacharjee and his staff have executed a stunning turnaround in 2017. Just two years removed from a 3-win team, the 2017 squad has lost just three games and currently has the highest win-loss percentage (.722) in the program's 17-year Division I history. They were picked by opposing coaches to finish next-to-last in 2017 but instead finished in a tie for first. They earned a home semifinal game for the first time in eight years. 

The Bearcats will host a semifinal game at 1 p.m. on Sunday against the winner of the quarterfinal pitting third-seeded Albany and sixth-seeded Vermont. The championship game will be contested the following weekend.

(Courtesy: BU Athletics)