Senior Allison Mack, above, and junior co-captain Hannah Shankman lead Binghamton's back line.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Women’s soccer preview: New coach looks to reinvigorate Bearcats
August 23, 2016Tweet
First-year head coach Neel Bhattacharjee points to his back line as the backbone of a 2016 Binghamton women’s soccer team whose aim is to climb the standings and return to postseason play.
Bhattacharjee and his staff, who took over the reins of a program that notched just three wins in 2015, have worked to reinvigorate a program that reached the America East title game in 2009 but has slipped in recent years.
Picked to finish last in the America East Coaches’ Preseason Poll, Binghamton will rely on a talented defensive unit to keep games close and look to a new offensive scheme to spark a group that was limited to just 10 goals in 17 games last season, including just six in eight conference games.
“Our back line and goalkeeping will be a strength for the team,” Bhattacharjee said. “We will be difficult to break down and penetrate.”
Improving the team’s goal production will be vital to success in 2016.
“In order for us to succeed we need to have a good rhythm of build-up play through our midfield,” he said. “This, along with switching our point of attack, will lead to advancing our possession of the ball and attacking opportunities in the final third.”
Junior Katie Hatziyianis returns for her junior season after playing all but 25 minutes during an exhausting 2015 campaign. She held a 1.86 goals against average and recorded 107 saves – second-most all-time at Binghamton. Having played in 34 collegiate games halfway through her career, Hatziyianis is an experienced and talented anchor in back.
“Katie is an inspirational leader,” Bhattacharjee said. “She is capable of making the big save when we need it.”
Senior Haley Downin, a former all-state scholastic keeper and four-sport athlete, will be in the backup role.
In Bhattacharjee’s 4-3-3 alignment, the back line is steadied by senior center back Allison Mack, who has been a starter since arriving to campus back in 2013.
“Allison is a steady defender who reads the play very well and provides strong leadership,” Bhattacharjee said.
Joining Mack in back will be junior co-captain Hannah Shankman, another returning starter from a year ago. Shankman, a good one-on-one defender who also brings attacking skills, will line up on the left as she begins the second half of her stellar collegiate career.
A pair of freshmen – Lauren Spinnato and Sam O’Malley – are expected to step into starting roles after impressing the coaching staff in preseason. Spinnato was an all-state back for Cold Spring Harbor High and also was a member of the Long Island Rough Riders Academy Team that won back-to-back Super Y League national championships. She will lineup next to Mack in the middle. O’Malley was a decorated midfielder and defender for a Goshen High program that won three straight sectional championships. She will be on the outside right.
“Sam is a tough defender with a competitive attitude,” Bhattacharjee said. “She can run the flank tirelessly from the outside.”
Two other freshmen – Barbara Badeer and Ryan Reilly – are expected to push for time. Both were named on Newsday’s list of Top 50 Seniors on Long Island.
Sophomore Sierra Barr organizes this unit from the middle after a solid freshman season last fall. She started all 17 games and is a hard-nosed, intense two-way player.
Redshirt junior Michele Galvin is back to top health and Bhattacharjee is eager to see her contributions from the left side of the midfield.
“Michele is a dynamic, technical and creative midfielder,” he said. “She can play out of tight spaces and will connect our lines.”
Set to move into a starting role on the right side of the midfield is freshman Carly Barnett, a two-time all-state player at Byram Hills High. She led her team to a pair of sectional titles and was the county player of the year.
“Carly is a ball winner with a tough mentality,” Bhattacharjee said. “She provides rhythm in our buildup when she switches the point of attack.”
Three returning letterwinners—sophomore Patty Loonie, junior Valerie McNamara and senior Aly Falinski, offer additional options. McNamara started 16 games last fall and Falinski has appeared in 21 career games.
This unit has been thinned by injuries in the preseason but will be boosted by the return of second-year speedster Jocelyn Acor and talented junior Tricia Hanley. Acor missed the entire 2015 season and Hanley was limited to three starts with injury.
Providing the focal point in the middle is senior Leighann Bennett, who tallied a goal and an assist in 16 starts last season.
“Leighann has a workmanlike attitude and is a senior leader,” Bhattacharjee said. “She can play centrally or wide up top.”
Acor showed off her blazing speed in her freshman season, creating scoring opportunities on the flank and tallying twice before her momentum was stalled on the sidelines last fall.
Junior Tricia Hanley returns healthy and is looking to regain the form from her freshman season, when she played in 15 games and scored a memorable game-winner to beat UMBC and lift Binghamton into the postseason.
Freshman Sydney Corda, a five-year letterwinner and three-time All-Class midfielder at Hewlett High, begins a promising collegiate career and should garner minutes up front. Barr may also jump up front during the season.
Bhattacharjee’s preseason core values highlighted such attributes as toughness, caring, focus, selflessness and resiliency. In a rebuilding season that may produce some bumps, the team’s printed quote from Nelson Mandela is perhaps most apropos.
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Bhattacharjee, who helped build strong ACC programs at Boston College and Syracuse, is putting Binghamton on that incline, looking to rise in 2016.