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Buffalo Women's Soccer Weekend Preview: Bulls travel to Western Michigan, host Northern Illinois

UB Athletics

There's little more to say here. UB isn't the frontrunner they were last year and are still looking for both offensive punch and consistency. On the whole, they've played well enough to be undefeated in conference but have failed to turn shots and possession into tying and winning goals against Ohio and Bowling Green and are instead 2-2-0.

Now they travel to Kalamazoo for a road rematch of the MAC Final last season, and the Broncos don't seem to have lost a step from last year at all. Fortunately, the weekend ends with a return home to UB Stadium and a match against Northern Illinois that might just be a must-win.

Western Michigan (6-3-2, 3-1-0 MAC)

Friday, 9 October; 2:00 PM 
Kalamazoo, MI

All-time series: Buffalo, 9-8-5
Last Meeting: Buffalo, 1-0; 9 November 2014
2015 Common Opponents: The MAC 
Streams: I don't think so. 
Live Stats: The directional Michigans have a habit of letting us down, but here's the link.

Broncos Player to Watch: Sophomore G Stephanie Heber

Heber played a limited schedule last year, but matched UB's All-MAC First Teamer Laura Dougall in the games she did appear, and thanks to Penn State's strong second half actually finished the season with a lower GAA than Dougall. This year she's once again matching Dougall in GAA and once again benefiting from a stingy defense in front of her, as she's only been forced to make three saves a night. If UB can get shots on net, Heber is in the lower third of the conference by save percentage.

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WMU looks real good this year, and is a big threat to return to the MAC Championship game for the third straight year. Their only loss so far comes to Kent State, and as I said above, they limit opponents shots as well as anyone in the conference. UB has had trouble with disciplined, physical teams over the last two years, and Western certainly fits the bill.

The simple key to this game is playing responsible, lockdown defense themselves. Buffalo shouldn't bunker down like they did against West Virginia, but that home loss to Ohio still looms and getting even a point would be a huge momentum boost heading into the final homestand of the season before a pair of tough road games. The next two weekends are where Buffalo needs to make their move into a home quarterfinal match, and that starts with a result against the Broncos.

Northern Illinois (2-9-0, 1-3-0 MAC)

Sunday,11 October; 12:00 PM 
UB Stadium

All-time series: Even, 8-8-2
Last Meeting: 0-0 Draw; 10 October 2014
2015 Common Opponents: The MAC (Kent State 3-7)
Streams: UB's UStream!
Live Stats: UB's Superior LiveStats!

Golden Flashes Player to Watch: Senior F Nicole Gobbo

Gobbo is NIU's leading scorer with four goals and two assists on the season, and makes her way into some of the MAC-wide tables as a result. She's taken more shots than any other Huskie by a good margin and has been the focus of their offense for two years running now. She doesn't bring much size up top, though at 5-6 she's a little taller than the forwards UB's defense is facing in practice.

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Simple fact: UB needs three wins from these three home games against NIU, Toledo, and CMU. Northern Illinois isn't even the weakest of the three, but do have a 7-3 loss to Kent State on their record. They do an OK job of getting possession and shots, but are being outscored by a two-to-one margin. Hopefully this matchup - if not tomorrow's - is the springboard for the Bulls.

Around the MAC

The Bowling Green loss hurts the Bulls less than it might've thanks to favorable results around the conference (UB is still just a game out of first in the East), but it's also a huge missed opportunity for the Bulls to get back on top of the table.

Right now, UB would be traveling for their MAC quarterfinal after losing tiebreakers to Ohio and Bowling Green and barely eking into the tournament, but the good news is they hold the tiebreaker on Kent State already and still have a chance to earn it over WMU, Ball State, and Miami.

This weekend, look for some help from Ohio and Kent State to bring Miami and Ball State back into the pack.

Individually, Jenna Hellstrom from Kent is running away with the scoring lead thanks to a blowout in nonconference play and that 7-3 win over NIU. Julia Benati's four goals don't register highly on the conference tables, but that all four have been gamewinners does. She leads the MAC in that stat.