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It's time to get (more) hype for Women's Soccer

After getting scammed out of a conference championship berth last season due to MAC incompetence and perhaps some COVID-related foot-dragging gamesmanship from Bowling Green (prove me wrong), UB Women's Soccer hit August with its most stacked roster since at least the 2014 MAC Championship squad and the highest preseason expectations since the teams of 2001 and 2002.

If you were a skeptic or not at all that interested before, it's time to tune in as the schedule shifts to conference play. UB's lived up to expectations so far, compiling a 6-1-0 record against a typical Shawn Burke OOC schedule - a mix of local rivals, regional peers, and a toughie or two thrown in.

The only loss came against perennial power West Virginia, while key wins came against Niagara, Canisius, Duquesne, and UConn. That Niagara win is my favorite of the season so far, both because the Bulls were unhappy with their focus despite a 6-2 scoreline and because the Purple Eagles have been red hot since and are 7-1-0 on the season.

The group is led offensively by 2020-21 Second Team All-American Marcy Barberic (a WNY native), but the scoring contributions have come from a deeper set of options than last year's team. Barberic has 7 goals and 2 assists and has already seen recognition from Top Drawer Soccer this season, but sisters Abby and Hannah Callaghan have combined for 3 and 3, including the winner against UConn last weekend, and eight different bulls have scored on the season already.

There are seniors up and down the lineup, with Emily Kelly in goal currently sitting on a four-game shutout streak, the program's longest since that fabulous 2014 season, the Callaghan sisters, defenders Tess Ford and Annie Judasz, Barberic, and grad student Gianna Yurchak, who has started from the day she stepped on campus, in the attack.

I'd be remiss not to highlight that Kelly, Barberic, Ford, Emily Lazenby and Katherine Camper all played for the new FC Buffalo Women team this past summer. There's no doubt that summer competition helped this group hit the season already in form. No other team in the conference has a Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) league team in town, and while I'm sure some other MAC players found spots in the league, FCB certainly looks so far like a leg up for the Bulls relative to the rest of the conference.

For more, don't miss Ben Tsujimoto's coverage at Buffalo News Soccer, including this great preseason piece.

UB opens conference play Thursday at Ohio. The Bulls were selected to win the MAC regular season in the coaches preseason poll, though Bowling Green received more votes (6 to 4) to win the championship. Western Michigan and Ball State also received votes to take the title.