Earlier today, a friend of mine sent me a text that she was doing a track workout at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA, and basically, 'hooray, Remember the Titans.' Given that jump start, I've had quotes from that movie on my mind today, and it's easy to look at tonight's Men's Soccer game against Big Four rival St. Bonaventure and think of Bill Yoast telling his team to "Leave no doubt."
It was that lopsided today. Maybe more. St. Bonaventure came into tonight's match with just a single win and a goalie letting up upwards of two and a half goals per game. Though their last game saw them hold RPI #14 Davidson scoreless into the final twenty minutes before losing 2-0, with the Bulls playing their best soccer of the year in the last two weeks, I was expecting a win.
I wasn't expecting 4-0, with the game basically over a little over a third of the way through.
After a few minutes of sloppy play on the wet turf in a slow, unavoidable drizzle, the Blue and White started to force the issue early, taking a page out of the UB Women's Soccer team's book, getting a goal from Marcus Hanson after a long pass from Russell Cicerone. The opening score was, frankly, the dragon that the addicted team has been chasing all year: a long pass from midfield through the opponent's back line that connected with Hanson, the big-bodies target forward, who was able to step around the goalie and slot it home.
Over the next ten minutes, the Bonnies would get a couple of mildly threatening chances. The greatest threat wasn't even a shot a goal, but a deflection that forced goalie Waleed Cassis to leap high in the air with a Bonaventure attacker right in his face. Another potential threat turned into nothing when a cross sailed into open space, past the area where a recipient should have been.
It was around this time that the Bonaventure coach established himself as A Very Angry Man. The ref wasn't calling many fouls, and truthfully I don't think many were deserved, but the Bonnies coach was the most exciting part of his team. Unfortunately, he couldn't match the red-card-ejection standard laid down earlier in the year by the Detroit coach.
In the 24th minute, sophomore Russell Cicerone made his way into the penalty box, showed the referee what he wanted to see, and slotted home the resulting penalty for a 2-0 Bulls lead. Five minutes later Marcus Hanson had a great chance in the box after reeling in a cross but couldn't convert, and just a few minutes after that Hanson fed the ball from the side of the box to Cicerone in front for a 3-0 lead; Buffalo's largest of the year.
Bonaventure would threaten with a curling shot off the outside post, and Buffalo would answer with two chances inside the box before the half, but neither team found another goal and the game was essentially over. I didn't take many more notes in the rain, and truthfully there wasn't need to.
Buffalo continued to look for another goal, but was generally unable to capitalize on the empty space behind the pressing Bonaventure back line, instead being called for several offsides and sending a number of would-be excellent chances just a touch long and into the arms of the Bona goalie.
Nicolai Berry got his first goal of the year with under ten minutes to play when he got a low shot from an angle into the netting, but it was not an especially critical goal other than to rub salt in the wound, which, when it comes to the Big Four, I am more than OK with that.
On the night, two more goals for Cicerone, bringing him to eight on the year, one for Hanson, making him the first non-Cicerone Bull with more than one goal, and one for Berry, his aforementioned first of the year. Also, Cassis' first D-1 shutout of the season. Huzzah!
Bear With Me On This One
One of the first hockey video games was Ice Hockey for the NES, released in 1988. I have never played Ice Hockey, but its breakdown of players as Medium, Skinny, or Fat is iconic. A player's size affected his faceoff ability, speed, and shot power/toughness. People still debate the best combination of the three to use on their four-player team.
I'm going somewhere with this, I promise.
Last week I noted that without Abdulla Al-Kalisy, Steven Stryker got tons of time against Lafayette. In the last two games, it's been Sean Young benefiting the most from Al-Kalisy's time off. Young's first goal of the season came Saturday against Bowling Green and erased a 1-0 deficit just moments after the Falcons goal.
Two things are becoming clear now that I've seen two games without Al-Kalisy up front: Al-Kalisy is a Skinny, and the team is better off with a Medium in his place. The freshman scored five goals in the first two exhibition games, captured a lot of goodwill, and hasn't done much since. In the last few games I have praised the team's newfound physicality, which I'm now realizing is in part a benefit of changing from a Skinny to a Medium up top.
Two of UB's typical three forwards are almost always there: Russell Cicerone is a Skinny. He is excellent on the ball, can get past most defenders, and shows the ref what he wants to see when the time is right. Marcus Hanson is a Fat. He's simply a tank who can't be knocked off the ball and can dribble around the top of the box for a few seconds looking for a better shot or pass.
Al-Kalisy is a super-Skinny. He has trouble keeping the ball, but also isn't as skilled on the dribble to avoid contact. Nicolai Berry leads the team in assists and is a Skinny/Medium, but he was getting time before Al-Kalisy's injury. The freshman's two main replacements, Young and Stryker, are both clearly Mediums (Stryker may be close to a Fat, but he plays with such pace that I'm going to go with Medium).
They're different players: Stryker plays with tons of pace and is always pressing, either up the pitch with the ball, or directly at a defender looking for a turnover. Young is more a builder, carrying the ball through the middle and passing it off before the attacking third.
Maybe it's Bonaventure, but things went well without the Super-Skinny in against Western Michigan, Bowling Green, and Lafayette, too. Either way, the forwards are so much better with a balanced Medium-Skinny-Fat lineup: a fast Medium on one side, a powerhouse Fat target forward on the other, and a Skinny waterbug in the middle going where ever he needs to.
Just a thought.
A Story in Seven Parts
1) Once upon a time, when men were men and giants roamed the Earth, UB's next game, and final home match of the season was against NIU on Friday at 7:00. My masochistic, Olympic Sport-covering self was preparing to bounce between the volleyball match in Alumni and the soccer match in the Stadium during the 7-to-9 time block.
5) No, I don't have the numbers wrong. Earlier today, UB Athletics posted on Facebook and their website that the NIU game had been changed from Saturday to Friday, now at 8:30. I was confused, because last I knew, the game was Friday at 7:00.
2) Back to (2). Turns out, NIU didn't know when the game was, and booked travel that only got them into Buffalo late Friday afternoon.
Yep. This is real.
3) Arrangements are made for the game to be moved to Saturday, and played on Niagara's campus since UB Stadium will be in use by another of the school's sports teams on Saturday.
4) Danny White catches wind of this arrangement, embraces the 'Screw Niagara' philosophy, and says 'That won't do. We must play at UB, and we will do it on Friday, because your travel issues are your issues. We will do it at 8:30 to account for your flight, but, your issues.'
Enter the release I saw in (5), supra.
6) The MAC catches wind of the new arrangement and won't stand for it, forcing the game to be played Saturday.
7) The game is now scheduled for Saturday at 9:00 PM. What was once a WSOC-VB/MSOC Doubleheader of Doom, then a WSOC-VB-MSOC tripleheader on Friday, with a FB-VB doubleheader on Saturday, is now a Friday WSOC-VB double and a Saturday FB-VB-MSOC triple.