It took all of fifteen seconds for UB fans to set memories of 2014 aside. Before the Bulls could conplete a pass, St. Joseph's freshman Dakota Mills had split the left side of the UB defense and given the hosts a 1-0 lead on a one-on-one shot on Laura Dougall.
At game's end of tonight's season opener, UB had fallen 3-1, struggling throughout to build consistent momentum. The lone goal came in UB's best stretch, a header from Jackie Hall in the 72nd minute that capped an excellent 20 minutes or so from the Bulls out of the break.
Other than that stretch, though, UB struggled with an aggressive Hawks team and seemed tense. The Bulls answered St. Joseph's opening goal with a flurry of chances, but fell onto their back foot for much of the first half, surrendering a second goal midway through on an unmarked header in the box and not getting another quality chance themselves until freshman Nicole Gerritz barely missed the net on a through ball in the dying seconds.
The second half run up to Hall's goal showed why it's easy to be excited about this team; without making any drastic technical adjustments UB looked more relaxed and was able to easily connect multiple passes in space. Freshman Rebecca Bramble in particular was able to stretch the field and test the Hawks defense.
The issues of the early game, though, plagued the Bulls late, as the still-gelling defense surrendered a third goal immediately after Hall's score, again leaving Dougall one-on-one, this time well out of net, to try for the save. UB was less tentative and far more fluid in the second half than in the jittery first, but was unable to turn midfield possession into quality chances in the final third.
One game does not make the season, and it's not at all surprising to see a team start the year tight, but tonight's loss highlights just how lucky last year's team was to find cohesion early. The skills are there and evident to play a high-possession game, but they need to be partnered with quick decision making and more teamwork than we saw tonight.
Other than Bramble, Coach Burke also got freshman contributions from Bri Shingary, who started at defense, and versatile sub Gerritz. Dana Lytle was an effective spark as a midfield sub, while Kassidy Kidd was able to find some space in the midfield.
Buffalo stays in Philadelphia for their next game, a Sunday match against Drexel at 1:00 pm. There is a free stream available at the Drexel website, which you can find the link the in the weekend preview linked in the sidebar.