UB's got a pretty good thing going when it comes to centerbacks wearing #5. On the men's side, Fox Slotemaker is a promising sophomore with tons of experience. On the women's side, a position change during the spring of 2014 created one of the finest players on a team full of standout performers, and better yet Jackie Hall returns for another season in 2015.
Like her counterpart on the men's side, Hall makes her defensive responsibilities look easy: so much so that her 2014 campaign earned her First Team All-MAC, MAC Defensive Player of the Year, NSCAA First Team All-Great Lakes Region, and NSCAA Third Team All-American honors. In her first season playing defense.
Hall the hero as UB caps MAC Championship run
Jackie Hall's goal on a free kick from Sophie Therien at 81 minutes today propelled Buffalo to the first MAC championship in program - and fourth in school - history, as the Bulls prevailed over defending champions and #6 seed Western Michigan.
Hall OT goal saves sloppy Bulls against Akron
In the land of sports cliches, Thursday's afternoon start against Akron was a classic trap game, and for 50 minutes UB Women's Soccer played the part, before tying the game on a long goal from Kassidy Kidd and winning it off a Julia Benati corner in the second overtime.
You read that right. In her first three years at UB - one cut extremely short by injury - Hall played in the midfield. It took the experimental lineup tinkering of the 2014 spring schedule to figure out her spot in the center of the defense, and we all know the rest: Hall became a destroyer on the backline, helping make Laura Dougall's job easier. UB averaged five more shots and three more shots per game than their opponents on the season.
As much as I've praised Women's Soccer over and over again for being a true team with no outright superstars, there may be no better indication of Hall's importance than the second half against Penn State. When Jackie left the game at the end of the first half due to a concussion, UB had spent thirty minutes getting into their rhythm against the far faster and more technical Nittany Lions, only for the hosts to score twice in the first seven minutes of the second half against the Hall-less Bulls.
The move to the back line didn't hinder Hall's offensive game, either. Jackie had never been much of a scorer in her first few seasons with Buffalo, but finished third on the team with four goals as a junior. All were off set pieces, three gamewinners, and all told, I'd put all of them among the most memorable goals of the season. In all four, Hall demonstrated an uncanny nose for the ball in crowded areas; only her first goal against Niagara came to her directly rather than off a rebound or deflection.
Hall is one of those players about whom there's no doubt for 2015. She'll start in the same spot, once again in every game, and likely once again play nearly every minute (She only saw the bench thrice in 2014). The only concern of any sort is the loss of Sophie Therien to her left in the formation, but considering Hall put together last season on no experience at the position, it's safe to say she'll be ready.