Eleven months ago (to the day), I tweeted at halftime of UB's MAC Final showdown with Western Michigan that it was clear the first 45 minutes were that of a championship on the line. Today's 2015 rematch featured more of the same as each team struggled to find shots before drawing 1-1 after 110 minutes of play.
Working only from (intermittently-updated) livestats, we can glean most significantly that this was a drag it out battle when the two teams combined for just a handful of shots in the first half, and the stats failed to update because there was nothing to be said just as often as they failed only to catch up with ten minutes worth of fouls and substitutions.
Moira Petrie Kassidy Kidd's (I blame WMU's livestats) goal, her first of the year, was surprising not that it broke the deadlock, not that it came on UB's second shot on goal, but that UB found it just 24 seconds into the second half, apparently prior to WMU even touching the ball out of the break. Celina Carrero assisted on the score, her third of the year.
Coach Burke made two lineup switches for today's starters, flipping Kristin Markiewicz and Andrea Niper between defense and midfield, and Kassidy Kidd and Carissima Cutrona between midfield and forward. Longterm, I like the idea of avoiding two senior centerbacks, but in a vacuum I like these moves. How they played out in the game I can't say without video.
It was ultimately a corner kick with just under 15 minutes to play that saw Western Michigan tie the game. UB had controlled play for the first 30 minutes of the second half and seemed on their way to a big road win before the corner. WMU's live stats claim that Laura Dougall misplayed the ball, but again, I have nothing to go on.
Following the goal Western found more of a groove into the end of regulation, and twenty minutes of overtime were much like the first half. Celina Carrero did hit the post in the final minute of regulation, and UB found three shots in the final five minutes, but leave Kalamazoo with a tie. Laura Dougall made five saves in the effort.
In the long view, this is a pleasing result from the ladies, who have struggled with consistency this season and dropped a pair of eminently winnable games against Ohio and Bowling Green early in conference play. Western Michigan looks primed for another trip to the MAC final and had started 3-1 with only a loss to offensive powerhouse Kent State. Short of a dominant team like last year, road results are always good, and a point from a frontrunner is encouraging.
A more short term look gives me more mixed feelings. On one hand, UB was generally the superior team today, scoring first, enjoying but not converting the more dangerous chances, and holding WMU punchless for 60 or 70 minutes in the middle of the game. On the other, an otherwise strong performance diminished by a momentary miscue or inability to finish is the story of the 2015 team. At 75 minutes it sure seemed like Buffalo was on their way to an absolutely huge road win.
Still, this was a much stronger showing than against Bowling Green or Eastern Michigan, 2-2-1 in the MAC is better than 2-3-0, and with three home and three road matches left, UB once again has me feeling they'll be a tough out in future contests at Miami and Ball State and that they're poised for a second-half surge back.
UB returns home for their final three UB Stadium matches of the year Sunday with a noon kickoff against Northern Illinois.