(Photo Courtesy of Binghamton Athletics)
Hard jobs are hard. And Kevin McKeown might just have the toughest job central New York.
Since the program’s founding in 2002, the Bearcats have been scratching and crawling to be consistently relevant in the America East and be, somewhat, on par with many of their in-state neighbors. The Bearcats hit a pretty solid streak in the 2000s, making six straight America East Tournament appearances from 2004 to 2009, which included a title game appearance and 10-win season in 2004. They also made the conference semifinals in 2011 and 2014.
However, despite being pretty dang consistent in making the postseason in the 2000s and early 2010s, the Bearcats have only had two winning seasons in program history.
McKeown, who was the starting goalie on that famed 2004 squad and is a member of the Binghamton Athletics Hall of Fame, returned to his alma mater ahead of the 2017 season and got his tenure started off with a bang. After two straight four-win seasons, McKewon led the Bearcats to an 11-5 (4-2) record and an America East Finals appearance in his inaugural season at the helm.
And while his tenure started off with a bang and the energy around the program seemed to be trending upwards, the Bearcats went backwards. After losing some key veterans from 2017, Binghamton went 4-11 (1-5) and then went 2-11 (2-4) in 2019, being the last team in the nation to record a win as their only two victories came in the final two games of the season.
Before the Coronavirus outbreak cancelled the remainder of the 2020 season, Binghamton posed a 1-5 record. Their lone win was an 11-10 triple overtime victory against Lafayette in late February.
While things haven’t seemed to be trending upwards in the win column, there are various areas where improvement has been made. From closing gap in losses, to a year by year increase in clearing percentage, and individual player successes, there is and has been movement made back towards where things were in 2017 with the Bearcats.
Coming into the 2021 season, the Bearcats will return a good chunk of their starters and heavy contributors on both ends of the field.
Offensively, the Bearcats will their top five scorers in junior A/M Kevin Winkoff (9G/6A), senior attackman Justin Roderka (12G/1A), sophomore midfielder Thomas Greenblatt (7G/4A), junior attackman Denial MacKinney (5G/5A), and sophomore midfielder Ryan McBeth (3G/6A). MacKinney started in all six games last season, while the other four each saw starts in all but one contest.
Further more, they have multiple other contributors returning, as well. And while many of the returnees on the offensive end may be on the younger side and not have as much experience, especially as a full time starter, due to the shortened 2020 season, having this much cohesiveness is no doubt a huge plus. It should not surprise for the Bearcats’ offense to possibly make a decent jump in efficiency this season with so much returning on that end of the field.
The same can be said on the defensive end, where they also return a good chunk of their production, including staring goalie Teddy Dolan. The redshirt sophomore posted a .527 save percentage last season as a redshirt freshman and first time starter.
Senior Tom Galango (22GB/13), who started in five of six games last season, is their top returning pole. Junior Drew Furlong (22GB/1CT) and senior Kyle Tiernan (8GB/4CT) will also be returning. Both should take another step forward and possibly be thrust into a bigger role after a solid 2020 campaign, where they each saw some starting time.
While the Bearcats do have a ton of talent returning all around the field, which should give off rays of optimism coming into 2021, there is still some concern at the faceoff dot. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Rizzuto went 49-131 (37%) last season as their primary option at the dot. Matthew Desouza was their backup as a freshman last season and went 2-for-12 (16%).
Whether either of those two can make a significant improvement from last season to 2021 has yet to be seen, but winning faceoffs will be crucial if they want to see an offense, which could be pretty solid, go to work. And if not, that burden of gaining possession will be felt by their defense, and that doesn’t always turn out the prettiest.