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2014 UB Men's Soccer Season Preview

Head Coach Stu Riddle in the huddle.
Head Coach Stu Riddle in the huddle.
UBBulls.com

As a head coach Stu Riddle has been nothing short of a magician. He took Fairfield to a Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship and upset nationally ranked Loyola in doing so, en route to a NCAA tournament berth. Then, when he was hired by Western Michigan, he took a Broncos program that had been in the MAC cellar for quite sometime and revitalized the program to one of the better teams in the MAC. So, when Danny White hired him away from Western Michigan, it was a very impressive hire and he has not disappointed.

In his first year at the helm, Riddle guided a very young and inexperienced Bulls squad to a 3-11-4 record. While it may seem like a poor record, Riddle made a lot of progress in developing the 15 freshmen that he recruited, which included MAC Freshman of the Year, and First Team All-MAC honoree Russell Cicerone (more on him later).

Key Departures

One of the advantages that Riddle has entering this season is that he only lost two players to graduation: Jesse Andoh, and Marek Albert. Andoh was a former transfer from Cincinnati who started 10 games for the Bulls last season on the back line. Albert, a former JUCO transfer, started 13 games as an attacker for the Bulls pitching in one goal against Niagara.

Key Returning Players

Russell Cicerone

Cicerone was UB's leading goal scorer, netting 6 goals and 2 assists last season in his 17 starts as a freshman and he garnered First Team All-MAC, and MAC Freshman of the Year honors in the process. I'll direct your attention to Matt's article on why you should know the name Russell Cicerone. He had a very impressive offseason for FC Buffalo and garnered National Honors, and he will be looking to carry the offseason success over into the regular season as the Bulls' leader on offense.

Nicolai Berry

While the focus may have been on freshman phenom Russell Cicerone another freshman that made an immediate impact was Nicolai Berry. The speedy New Zealander proved that he'll be a matchup nightmare when he's on the pitch with Cicerone, scoring 3 goals to go along with a team high 4 assists. He and Cicerone already provide a solid offensive foundation, and as they continue to develop they figure to be one of the best duos in the MAC.

Waleed Casis

Casis returns for his senior season as one of the senior leaders, and as the Bulls' most experienced netminder, with over 1,500 minutes in goal last season. Casis was in his first season of Division I competion last season as a transfer from Division II Cal State Los Angeles, and it showed at times, but as he adjusted his play improved as the season went on. His 77 saves and 1.42 goals against average are both top 20 marks in program history, and he will certainly improve on those numbers this year as he looks to give the Bulls a steady presence in goal.

Newcomers

With such a large recruiting class last season, Coach Riddle couldn't bring in such a class again this year; instead, he focused on bringing in top quality players to fill out the depth chart across all areas of the field.

Name Position Hometown / Previous School
Fox Slotemaker D Nelson, New Zealand / Mount Albert Grammar School
David Enstrom D Gothenburg, Sweden / Vittra Sodermalm
Abdulla Al-Kalisy F/M Auckland, New Zealand / Shattuck St. Mary's
Zack Compton F Cary, NC / Green Hope
Jeremy Norman F Cologny, Switzerland / International School of Geneva
Cameron Hogg GK Auckland, New Zealand / Mount Albert Grammar School
Charlie Norman D/M Cologny, Switzerland / International School of Geneva

Those of you that are hockey fans will recognize Abdulla Al-Kalisy's school Shattuck St. Mary's in Minnesota as one of the top hockey schools, but it also has a very solid soccer program as well, and Al-Kalisy will add even more firepower to a dangerous offense featuring Russell Cicerone and Nicolai Berry. Meanwhile, former teammates Fox Slotemaker and Cameron Hogg look to solidify the future of the Bulls' backend.

Coach Riddle stepped up his international recruiting game by getting recruits from four different countries, with the vast majority of the recruits being foreign-born. It's also worth noting that Riddle is recruiting heavily from his native New Zealand, where he was raised and played on the national team. Building a strong international presence, especially in a soccer hotbed like New Zealand will only allow the program to get better over time.

2014 Schedule

Date Opponent Time Location
8/17 Genesee CC # 12:30 PM Batavia, NY
8/20 Seton Hill # 5:00 PM Amherst, NY
8/23 Rochester # 7:00 PM Amherst, NY
8/29 San Diego 7:00 PM San Diego, CA
8/31 San Diego State 12:00 PM San Diego, CA
9/5 Bryant 7:00 PM Amherst, NY
9/7 Bucknell 1:00 PM Amherst, NY
9/12 Niagara 7:00 PM Lewiston, NY
9/14 Canisius 7:00 PM Buffalo, NY
9/19 Detroit 7:00 PM Amherst, NY
9/21 Duquesne 1:00 PM Pittsburgh, PA
9/27 Cornell 7:00 PM Ithaca, NY
10/1 Houghton 7:00 PM Houghton, NY
10/10 Western Michigan * 7:00 PM Amherst, NY
10/14 Lafayette 6:00 PM Easton, PA
10/18 Bowling Green * 7:00 PM Bowling Green, OH
10/21 St. Bonaventure 7:00 PM Amherst, NY
10/24 Northern Illinois * 7:00 PM Amherst, NY
11/1 West Virginia * 7:00 PM Morgantown, WV
11/8 Akron 7:00 PM Akron, OH
11/14 MAC Tournament TBA TBA

# Indicates Exhibition, * Indicates Conference Opponent

UB will open it's preseason with three exhibition matches against Genesee Community College, Seton Hill, and Rochester, before opening up the regular season on the road with two games in Southern California against San Diego and Mountain West foe San Diego State. Then the Bulls will remain in Western New York for a good portion of September, starting with a two game home series against Bryant and Bucknell, before traveling down the road to play Niagara, and Canisius; they will end their stay with a home match against Detroit.

The Bulls will then go on a 3 game road trip taking on Duquesne, Cornell, and Houghton, before returning home to begin MAC play against MAC runner-up Western Michigan. The Bulls will take to the road once more taking on Lafayette, and traveling to Bowling Green to take on the Falcons.

The final stretch of the season includes home matchups against Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure, and Northern Illinois; before closing out the season on the road visiting West Virginia in Morgantown, and ending the regular season with a matchup against defending MAC Champion and National Power Akron.

Final Thoughts

Stu Riddle's squad looks to be very exciting this year, with the return of nearly the entire roster and with a very solid recruiting class, the Bulls are poised to improve upon last year's record and may even surprise some people. However, with national power Akron still lurking in the MAC, I don't think a MAC championship is in the picture this season, but with a solid out-of-conference schedule and a young core of great players that includes a legit MAC Player of the Year candidate in Russell Cicerone, the season will be about improving upon last season.

If you haven't seen a Bulls soccer game yet I would definitely suggest going, the general public can get into the games free of charge, and it's worth it just to see Cicerone play, he's a star in the making. The Bulls are on the rise and with a solid core of young players, a coach with a pedigree of building programs, and great recruiting, the Bulls will be MAC contenders in no time.