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Weekend Preview: Buffalo Women's Soccer opens home schedule with Syracuse, Niagara

UB Athletics

Just as it seemed Women's Soccer had settled into a groove with a second consecutive shutout win on Sunday, they fell back to .500, losing 2-0 to St. Bonaventure on Tuesday. The Bulls played the bulk of last weekend's action without Jackie Hall, but after the All-American centerback entered Tuesday's game, UB held the Bonnies without a shot for the remaining 40 minutes.

In both games UB seemed snakebit when it came to converting chances into goals, scoring just twice on 37 shots over 180 minutes. Last year, Buffalo only scored four goals in their first four games, as well, and the possession and shots are there; it's just a matter of finishing.

One opponent this weekend will force the Bulls to play a complete 90 minutes and capitalize on their chances, while the other presents a Tuesday-night, local-rival situation that's already burned the Bulls once this season.

Syracuse (1-1-0, 0-0-0 ACC)

Sunday, 6 September; 12:00 PM 
UB Stadium

All-time series: Syracuse leads, 5-0-1
Last Meeting: Syracuse, 1-0 (2OT); 29 Aug 2004
2015 Common Opponents: Drexel
Streams: UB will provide video through their UStream on the website.
Live Stats: Live stats will also be available through UB.

Orange Player to Watch: Junior F Stephanie Skilton

Skilton led the Orange in scoring each of her first two seasons, and is currently tied for the team lead with two goals, including a late game-winner against Albany. UB will also have to mark Alexis Koval, who assisted on both of Syracuse's goals in the come-from-behind win against the Great Danes.

Sophomore goalie Courtney Brosnan was the only Syracuse player to earn ACC recognition in 2014, named to the conference All-Freshman team.

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Syracuse will be UB's second match against an ACC opponent in two seasons after last year's 5-0 loss to Virginia Tech, and third overall after a 6-1 loss to Duke in 1989. UB's six previous meetings against Syracuse came before the ACC added the Eagles and Orange. In Syracuse, Buffalo hosts not one of the ACC teams who can almost pencil in an NCAA berth from the beginning of the season, but one that was 5-10-4 last year.

The Orange are 2-2-0 early this season and seem somewhat improved in 2015, with narrow losses to Providence and #18 St. John's, while Buffalo has been up and down on the way to an identical 2-2-0 record. On the field, Syracuse is somewhat defensive-minded, though their numbers are a bit skewed by a 6-0 win over UMass. SU surrenders nine shots per game while taking about 13, but haven't been stellar at getting shots on target.

This is a winnable game for the Bulls, but unlike Buffalo's last two, it will take UB converting their chances and playing responsible defense with Jackie Hall in the lineup. I wouldn't be surprised by any result.

Niagara (1-1-1, 0-0-0 MAAC)

Tuesday, 8 September; 7:00 PM
UB Stadium

All-time series: Buffalo leads, 22-12-1
Last Meeting: Buffalo, 2-0; 7 Sept 2014
2015 Common Opponents: Akron, Binghamton, St. Bonaventure, Drexel, Canisius
Streams: Video will be available on ubbulls.com. Same link as above.
Live Stats: Live stats will also be available, though I don't have a link yet. They'll be easy to find.

Purple Eagles Player to Watch: Senior GK Claire Feiertag

Niagara doesn't generate shots on goal, and have only scored once on the season. They've done an OK job in three games against Michigan State, Akron, and Robert Morris of limiting shots, but only the Spartans managed to score (twice) on the Purple Eagles. Feiertag is currently on a shutout streak of 248 minutes after posting a .63 GAA last season.

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It's easy to look at Niagara, who were thoroughly outplayed by UB last season and played MAC East bottom-dweller Akron to a 0-0 tie, and see an overmatched opponent, but Buffalo's matchup with the Purple Eagles comes just a week after a 2-0 loss to St. Bonaventure.

UB, though, is used to a faster-paced game than Niagara, who even against Akron and RMU only forced four saves a game from the opposing goalies. Last year, Buffalo controlled the second half against the Purple Eagles and allowed few, if any, dangerous Niagara chances, and the Purple Eagles haven't displayed much offense in their first three games.

Buffalo will need to avoid a trap game here regardless of the result against Syracuse. After this weekend, the schedule slows down a bit until MAC play starts at the end of the month.