Stu Riddle’s squad is coming off their most successful season to date under the fourth-year head coach, featuring an appearance in the MAC Championship game and the second MAC Player of the Year in program history. The team returns a majority of the major contributors from last season and they’re looking to make another run at a championship.
Names to Know
Russell Cicerone, Sr F
If there is one name that even the most casual of Bulls fans will know, it’s Russell Cicerone. Cicerone is already one of the greatest to step on the field for UB, a three-time All-MAC First Team Selection, and the reigning MAC Player of the Year. He is coming off of a stellar junior campaign where he led the UB attack with 12 goals and 8 assists, only to improve in a busy summer season that saw him win a PDL Championship with the Michigan Bucks. He will also be looking to cement his status as a potential top pick in the upcoming MLS SuperDraft.
Joseph Kuta, Jr G
A transfer from Robert Morris coming into last season, Kuta was locked in a battle with Cam Hogg for the starting goalkeeper spot. After a bit of a midseason skid, Kuta took the reigns and never looked back. He finished 5-4-2 on the season, but his final record really understates how dominant he was during the MAC Tournament. Kuta made a total of 21 saves between the tournament semifinal and the championship match, an incredible amount considering it was against the best the MAC had to offer. He’ll look to match the success of late last season across his first full season as UB’s starting netminder. Kuta had a strong outing in the half that he played against UAlbany in the Bulls’ first exhibition yesterday.
Scott Doney, Jr F
Another transfer last offseason, Doney came to UB from Marshall after starting seven games for the Thundering Herd in his freshman campaign. Doney stands at 6-5 and is more often than not the tallest player on the field. He and Russell Cicerone were able to use that size beautifully as they connected on several goals together, and Doney’s size and presence inside the box was ample distraction to give Cicerone more space to work with. Doney petered off as the season wore on and it will be critical that he builds and keeps momentum as this season drives forward as a threat to teams who key in on Cicerone.
Daniel Cramarossa, Sr D/M
One of the more underrated members of the Bulls, Cramarossa was a quiet linchpin for the Bulls’ late-season offensive success and will need to be once again in his senior season. He had an offensive breakout last year finishing with three goals and two assists, including a laser beam of a game-tying goal in the 86th minute of the MAC semifinal versus Western Michigan. Look for Cramarossa to be a central part of the UB offense and direct flow to Russell Cicerone and his fellow attackers. Cramarossa notched assists on both UB goals in their exhibition against Albany and showed off why he’ll be a key cog in the UB attack.
Hanson was the only remaining Bull that outdated Stu Riddle. Hanson’s stat sheet never quite matched the play that you would see from him game in and game out. He was a vital piece of the UB offense and defense. Hanson brought a size and physicality that helped open the door for Russell Cicerone to be a true offensive weapon and had that same physicality and grit while on the UB half of the field to help shut down opposing attackers. Hanson finished his career with seven goals and 11 assists.
Rikard Lindqvist, F
Lindqvist comes to UB from one of the top club teams in Sweden and brings elite international experience with him. He was among the starters during the Albany exhibition and played in significant minutes, showing a keen nose for the ball and the ability to make crisp passes to his teammates. Look for Lindqvist to be an impact freshman on an upper-classmen-laden team.
Tommy Fogarty-Cameron, M/D
Fogarty-Cameron comes to the Bulls after playing his first two seasons at D-II Lubbock Christian University, where he started 28 games and scored 13 goals. Fogarty-Cameron comes with plenty of experience and is looking like a plug-and-play midfielder for Stu Riddle. He started the Albany exhibition, brings 6-2 height to the Buffalo midfield standing, and could be another offensive weapon.
Building on 2015
A late-season run and strong postseason in 2015 should have UB flying high heading into 2016, and that’s good, because this is a huge year for a program riddled (hah!) with upperclassmen. A second straight trip to the MAC Final would help raise the floor for the program in future recruiting cycles.
This time last year, we were hyping UB’s young but experienced defenders. They’re still there, but we’re taking them for granted a bit. And we’ll keep doing that to tell you that UB’s scoring potential does not at all stop at Cicerone. A full season of in-form Doney would go a long way, and both of us are salivating at the prospect of Cramarossa getting more forward. Braden Scales has a way of getting into chances, and there’s still Lindqvist and Steven Stryker who can play a role as well.
The sky is the limit. He won’t own every UB record, but he’ll finish with a lot, and will be with an MLS franchise by next spring.
Aside from the annual five-match sprint through the MAC schedule, which opens with Akron on October 7, the signature of this year’s slate is a metric ton of road games. It’s not quite the consecutive trips to Texas and Massachusetts like last year, because three of the road trips are Canisius, Niagara, and Binghamton, but UB will hit the road for eight of their nine games between September 7 and October 15.
Early-season matches against the Golden Griffins and Stony Brook will be worth following if only for UB’s memorable results last year. I’ll be particularly interested in the mid-September road trip into Virginia for VMI and Liberty, and despite the road-heavy slate, Bonaventure, Binghamton, and Duquesne should be good tune-ups and confidence boosters heading into the MAC schedule.
In-conference, UB could be relying on a late surge once again this year, as their opening two matches are on the road at Akron and at West Virginia. A tie in the first or a win in the second could go a long way for tiebreakers, depending on how the final three conference matches against WMU, NIU, and Bowling Green pan out.
The Bottom Line
This is top to bottom the most talented team that UB fans have seen in at least ten years, perhaps ever. In a conference with Akron and only four others, the two of us have gone back and forth over fair expectations for this group, but fans should prepare for another trip to the MAC Tournament, at least, and they should make every effort they can to see Cicerone before he leaves Amherst. In doing so, you’ll find a complete, cohesive team full of hard workers that just fun to watch. Don’t miss out.