During nonconference play before I grudgingly accepted Women's Soccer's inconsistencies, I game in and game out waited for the day when the bounces went Buffalo's way and the then-snakebit offense, led by Kassidy Kidd and Carissima Cutrona, found a torrent of chances and goals that missed the goalframe and instead hit the net.
Prior to today's 4-1 home win over Northern Illinois, it had become clear that bad luck was in fact poor finishing. Cutrona quietly found goals against Binghamton and Bowling Green; Kidd against Western Michigan, despite what the Broncos livestats told me, and I had given up on a breakthrough game.
Today, we got it. Kidd opened and closed the scoring with a brace, Rebecca Bramble converted a penalty kick (earned by fellow freshman Nicole Gerritz) at the very end of the first half, and Celina Carrero got her first goal of the year, benefiting from a five minute stretch where Julia Benati went supernova on the left wing.
Best - BEST - of all, UB controlled play to such a degree that backup goaltender McKenzie White saw action for the final 27 minutes, her first since 2 October 2011. White has since her freshman season fought a number of painful injuries and surgeries, and her appearance in this one is just as welcome and celebrated as N'DEA JOHNSON's earlier in the year.
Little on the day didn't go right: with a strong wind towards the scoreboard end throughout, UB struggled in the first ten minutes or so and later conceded an NIU goal on an unstoppable blast of a free kick after a probably unnecessary foul from Kristin Markiewicz. Celina Carrero got in the way of a probable goal early in the second half. UB's deliveries on free kicks were somewhat confusing, but their susceptibility to counters afterward were beyond troubling.
Other than that, it was an absolute delight of a game. Laura Dougall made five saves but was largely unchallenged other than the NIU goal and a quick flurry where she gave up a rebound, then got enough of a Huskie follow-up shot that the ball - perhaps helped by the wind - poked over the bar. Buffalo did well to fight through the wind and get the ball to a dangerous Carissima Cutrona on the right wing in the first half, and even better to control the game with the wind at their back in the second half.
UB's two insurance goals after the break came as part of a 20 minute flurry that iced the game and honestly could have seen two or three further goals, though it didn't feel as if the Bulls squandered too many chances. Carrero was marginally offside on one great feed and inadvertently blocked a good-looking shot later, UB's midfielders - especially Benati - easily moved through NIU with and without the ball, and Buffalo earned a half-dozen free kicks before Coach Burke began unloading the bench with a little less than half an hour to play.
The only real red flag from this showing was UB on those free kicks. As I said above, I am somewhat confused by the deliveries: in the first half Buffalo tried to put a ball on frame, only to see the shot taken away by the wind, while in the second half UB frequently dropped their deliveries into the front of the pack rather than the goal side. I could see this decision as one trying to avoid the wind taking the ball too far, but the Bulls exacerbated the situation by committing defenders to the ball while a half dozen or more teammates were caught behind the countering Northern Illinois line. Better teams will make Buffalo pay for mistakes like that, and I'll revisit it on the Film Study post when I get a rewatch.
On the whole, this was one of the finest games of the year, perhaps the best from a top-to-bottom perspective. Northern Illinois managed six shots on goal but also were without the ball long enough to commit 19 fouls, and only three Bulls on the roster didn't make an appearance. The four goals is the most by UB in a single game since September 2008, and Buffalo is now 3-2-1 in the MAC with a pair of home games next weekend.