Heading into today, the 2014 edition of UB Women's Soccer had already cemented itself in the UB record books with the first undefeated MAC season of any team in school history. If there was any further argument, their win this afternoon matches the deepest run into the conference tournament in program history.
After a back and forth first half that was better than recent openings against Akron and Ball State, but not as good as the first 45 minutes against Miami, UB got the wind at its back for the second half and, as is their wont, controlled play for much of the final stanza.
Buffalo had perhaps more trouble than normal stringing passes together, though they enjoyed a good degree of on-ball pressure throughout on the Rockets and had a number of quality chances in the first and early in the second half, forcing four Toledo saves while outshooting the Rockets 8-3 in the first half, even despite eight minutes or so of heavy Toledo pressure towards the end of the first.
UB broke through in the 63rd minute after Celina Carrero ran nearly half the field down the sideline to chase an errant pass, steal the ball from a Rocket defender, and then pass to a waiting Katie Roberts, who stepped around her mark and blasted a left-footed shot into the net.
Roberts will get credit for the goal and Carrero the assist, but that's a little too simplistic and negates the effort of UB's hottest offensive player over the last three weeks. When Kristin Markiewicz sent the ball up the sideline, it seemed to be going to nowhere, but Carrero's speed and excellent footwork won the ball for Buffalo and created the goal. The sophomore from Newburgh, NY now has assists in four straight games and points in six straight.
Moments after the goal, Buffalo put another shot off the inside of the post, and it was clear that UB's attack was ready to take over. Toledo regains some momentum with four subs all at once, hoping to overload Buffalo's defense, but they still couldn't maintain possession in the midfield to press further up.
Andrea Niper had come in for Kassidy Kidd shortly after the goal and immediately found space on the right side. Shortly after Toledo's substitutions, Alex Lambert found Niper sliding into open space and hit her in stride. After a dribble and three or four strides, the sophomore midfielder blasted a shot high and to the right side to give UB a 2-0 lead.
Both videos are courtesy UB Athletics and Boone Enser.
The final 15 minutes of the game were Toledo's strongest of the afternoon, though other than an excellent shot block from Kristin Markiewicz after goalie Laura Dougall was caught out of the net UB was never really threatened while continuing their pressure on Toledo: UB was whistled offside three times in the final ten minutes, while Dougall easily gobbled up the few balls that made it all the way through.
On the afternoon Dougall was only credited with three saves, although she had three or four key plays in the second half, and was briefly hobbled late in the first half after a collision with a Toledo forward, who did a fine job of playing dead to avoid a card before easily popping up and jogging away.
Carrero and Roberts both finished the MAC season near the top of the MAC table in points and added to their totals today, while UB's second goal was freshman Alex Lambert's first assist of her career and Andrea Niper's first goal of the season.
With the win UB moves to 3-7 all time in the MAC Tournament, and matches the program best with a semifinal appearance, advancing past the quarterfinals for the first time since 2000.
The highest remaining seed in the tournament, Buffalo will host both semifinals and the final, and will face off with Ball State Friday at 4:00 PM. The other semifinal will take place at 7:00 PM and feature Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, who both scored upsets over Miami and Eastern Michigan, respectively.