(Photo Courtesy of Binghamton Athletics)
In the summer of 2016, Binghamton made somewhat of a storybook hire when they brought Kevin McKeown back to his alma mater as head coach.
A native of Brewster, N.Y., McKeown played goalie at Binghamton from 2003-2006 and was the first USILA All-American selection in program history (2004), and was heralded as “the most decorated Bearcat in program history” in the school’s press release announcing his hiring.
McKeown served as the Bearcats’ defensive coordinator and goalie coach from 2008-2011 and even served as the interim head coach during the 2011 season where he led the Bearcats to the America East Tournament. Following that four-year stint as an assistant at his alma mater, McKeown served as the defensive coordinator at Siena, where he helped lead the Saints to their first MAAC finals appearance in 2013, and Bellarmine where he headed a top-25 defense and helped lead the Knights to their first-ever postseason appearance in 2016.
So upon his return to Binghamton, McKeown had enjoyed not only immense success as a player and coach with the Bearcats but also proven himself away from home as well.
All the excitement and hype around this new era of Bearcat lacrosse heading into the 2017 season proved to be warranted, as McKeown’s first season at the helm of the Bearcats saw them go 11-5 and take down No. 2 seed UMBC in the America East semifinals before falling to No. 1 UAlbany in the conference title game. That impressive season coming just a year after the Bearcats churned out a measly four-win record for the second straight season.
While the McKeown era started off with a bang, key losses appeared too great to overcome and the Bearcats went backward instead of forwards. Binghamton went 4-11 (1-5 America East) in 2018 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. Additionally, they were 1-5 when the 2020 season was cut short.
But after three years of struggles, it appears the Bearcats may have started to turn the corner during the 2021 season. Playing an America East-only schedule, Binghamton churned out a 5-4 record that featured wins over America East semifinalist UMBC and eventual America East champions Vermont. It marked the program’s first winning season since that stellar 2017 campaign.
Moreover, the Bearcats featured one of the top defenses in the conference, allowing 10.26 goals per game and leading the America East in caused turnovers per game (10.11).
Heading into the sixth season of the McKeown era in Vestal, there are likely numerous ways for this Bearcats squad can go. But if they can continue to build on the successes had last season, with the amount of experience this squad returns on both ends there is no question that we could see the Bearcats continue to march forward in 2022.
Defense was the strength of this Bearcats program last season as it has been for multiple years now, and that could be the case again this spring. However, McKeown and newly-minted defensive coordinator Nick Grill will have some personnel decisions to make this fall with the loss of the Bearcats’ top two close defensemen in Tom Galgano and Kyle Tiernan. Additionally, Gus Hueber is no longer on the Binghamton roster, which suggests the loss of their entire close defense from a year ago.
Max Verch (12GB/9CT), who was the Bearcats’ top reserve pole last season, is their top returning pole from a production standpoint. Teddy McLoughlin (8GB/4CT) and Zak Conely, who saw one start last season as a freshman at close, could also step up and be impact players on the back end. Additionally, senior Drew Furlong returns after not seeing any action last season. He made nine combined starts as a freshman and sophomore, recording 40 ground balls and 11 caused turnovers during those two seasons.
While there are a lot of questions surrounding what exactly this defense might look like coming into the 2022 season, one place where there are zero questions is in between the pipes. Teddy Dolan returns for his redshirt junior season after a 2021 campaign where he made led the conference in save percentage (.582) off 113 saves and was named a first team All-America East selection, and the conference’s defensive player of the year.
Dolan returning to anchor this defense, in addition to the fact that the Bearcats have been a fairly consistent squad on the back end since McKeown’s arrival, does ease quite a bit of concern one may have about this Bearcats back end heading into 2022.
An area of the field where there isn’t much to worry about for Binghamton coming into the spring is at the faceoff dot, where the Bearcats ranked second in the America East in win percentage (.523%). Junior Matthew DeSouza returns as their top option at the dot following a sophomore campaign in which he went 94-for-164 (.573%). He ranked 23rd nationally in faceoff win percentage at seasons’ end.
Offensively, the Bearcats weren’t fantastic last season as they hovered around the middle of the pack within the conference on that end of the field. Binghamton averaged 8.78 goals per game, 4.67 assists per game, and 13.44 points per game. They also had a .286 team shooting percentage off a league-low in total shots (276).
But while this offense didn’t perform particularly well last season, there is a toon of room for growth in 2022 under first-year offensive coordinator and Binghamton alum Tyler Perrelle, who returns to his alma mater after two seasons as an assistant at Marist that followed a stint as the offensive coordinator at Tampa (DII) and heading coach stint at Marywood (DII).
Redshirt sophomore midfielder Thomas Greenblatt returns to lead this Bearcats offense after putting up a team-high 23 points off 16 goals and seven assists last season. The America East All-Rookie selection is joined by other top-five point-getters in attackmen Kevin Winkoff (10G/6A), Daniel MacKinney (11G/2A), and Justin Roderka (10G/1A), who will be returning for a fifth season. Midfielder Ryan McBeth (7G/7A) is another top-five scorer who will be returning for the Bearcats this upcoming season.
In addition to the primary starters and proven commodities this squad returns on the offensive end, the Bearcats could also likely see role players such as senior attackman Quinn O’Hara (5G/1A), who saw five starts last season, as well as sophomore attackmen Ethan Insinga and Anthony Todaro step up and be much more productive. Insinga and Todaro saw limited action as reserves last season, combining for five points.