First things first, check out John's earlier work on today's tremendous 1-0 win over Syracuse. It's linked in a sidebar here. Usually, we'll just integrate his videos into our recap, but sometimes we're delayed a bit and his video will stand on its own.
That said, I won't spend 300 words reinventing the wheel here with another recap. It was a tight game that saw Syracuse's physical advantages control possession, while UB's tactics and fine-tuned defense held until the Bulls could convert a chance after about 70 minutes of steadily increasing Orange pressure (Orange crush?). UB found some verve in the second overtime, and nearly won it three or four times before Dana Lytle converted off a rebound at 108'.
A few days ago in the preview, I had this to say about the matchup with the Orange:
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.
The game pretty much played out as I expected: Syracuse had bigger, taller, and faster athletes, and was able to defend most of Buffalo's attacks with just five defenders, while UB frequently dropped all eight defenders and midfielders behind the ball and didn't overcommit to the attack. When Buffalo was perfect with their touches and passes and quick in their decision making, they could run their game, but the margin of error was too narrow. Only one other team on the schedule will present that small margin again, and UB won't be at such a physical disadvantage against any MAC opponent.
Jackie Hall seems back at near full-speed after whatever minor injury kept her out of large chunks of Canisius and St. Bonaventure, and Laura Dougall made some bigtime saves when Syracuse broke through.
The recipe to win was to do all that and find a goal off a bounce, because there wouldn't be many chances, and that's exactly what happened. Beyond today's 108 minutes, there's a few big takeaways moving forward:
Forget Bonaventure ...
2-0 to the Bonnies stings, but remember that Jackie Hall missed the first 50 minutes of that one, and UB did not cede a shot, on goal or otherwise, after she entered the game.
... because the defense is gelling fast
Today, Syracuse dominated possession, shots, and corner kicks, but forced UB to make few plays that I wouldn't expect them to make again. Laura Dougall made a career-high eight saves, but looked entirely confident and controlled on even the most spectacular, pushing a shot over the bar and two or three times coming out to meet an attacker with the ball on her foot.
Andrea Niper and Kristen Markiewicz are good, and still improving, in new roles
After Lytle (duh) and Dougall (duh), Niper was flat out the star of today's game. She's an aggressive and clean tackler - I'm not convinced her yellow at 99' was deserved, but I don't care because it saved a goal - who brings the physicality to match Hall. Markiewicz looks more and more comfortable in the central holding midfielder spot, and was solid today getting the ball cleared and turning Syracuse attacks into UB midfield possession.
The offense is coming.
Some people are concerned about the lack of offense so far, but forget that Buffalo didn't start regularly scoring multiple goals a game until MAC play last year. In fact, should they score twice in their sixth game of the season against Niagara on Tuesday, they'll have matched their goal total from the first six games of 2014.
Individually, how appropriate is it that Carissima Cutrona and Kassidy Kidd just missed game-winners moments before Lytle scored? Kidd's 'assist' was in fact yet another shot off the crossbar for the senior, which I'm happy to claim was a perfectly-placed pass, if we want. The goals will come. Each of Cutrona and Kidd could have three by now, and as I said, UB's going to have a lot more time and space to work with in conference play.
Buffalo stays at home this week for their final Big Four matchup on Tuesday evening, when they'll host Niagara at 7:00 PM at UB Stadium