As I said on Twitter this morning, I place next to no stock in exhibitions, and it annoys me a little when they're billed up as the start of a season.
That said, Women's Soccer was in action this afternoon, and it's not as if in years' past we haven't seen lineup tweaks that carried through to the regular season in these Cleveland State matches. Last year, Brianna Shingary surprised me by slotting into a fullback position on the defensive four, where she'd ultimately start every game, and two years ago this match was one of our first chances to see Jackie Hall at centerback, where she'd thrive as one of the best in the MAC for two seasons.
UB won 4-2 this afternoon. I don't care about that, but the game happened, so we might as well talk about it.
With this very heavy caveat, here's some of what we saw, and maybe learned going forward, from the live stats today:
Livestats doesn't help me out much with some specifics of UB's formation, but there were no massive surprises today. Nicole Gerritz has indeed moved to defense, and Gurjeena Jandu got a start there as well, presumably in the center. The two remaining spots that I've been uncertain about were filled by freshmen: Carly Zoccali in the midfield, and Adrianna VanCuyck in the defense.
Without video, I still have questions in both spots of who's more central and who's wider. My guess would be that both freshman are wide, while Moira Petrie is in the central midfield and the experienced Angel Hart is at center back, but I could easily justify the opposite if I wanted to.
Other than the three freshman, everything else was as I expected. Celina Carrero and Carissima Cutrona were up top, Julia Benati and Andrea Niper were in the midfield, presumably in their usual spots, and Laura Dougall was in net.
The only surprises to me lineup-wise? The absence of sophomore Meghan Simmons, who played in 17 games in the central defense last year, and that Coach Burke used no subs before the game was delayed for lightning in the 67th minute. I'm very interested to see where experienced names like Simmons, Dana Lytle, Rebecca Bramble and Ashley Evans fit in.
Good news here, as the upperclassmen who I feel really need to step up drove the offense. Julia Benati, Moira Petrie, and Carissima Cutrona led the team in shots, all putting multiple attempts on frame. Benati and Petrie scored. I'll say this tongue-in-cheek, but if history is any indication, most if not all of UB's offside calls were on passes directed at Celina Carrero. Even if she only had one shot, I'm not worried about her finding opportunities.
Zoccali was a pleasant surprise with two shots, both on target, and a goal, and based on Shingary's trajectory last year I wouldn't be shocked to see this be her spot once the season starts.
I have been worried about a tough year for the defense given the loss of Jackie Hall and Kristin Markiewicz. Mixed results today split my feelings between "very good" and "cautious." UB seemed well organized and responsible in general, surrendering only four shots total. On the other hand, two of those shots were goals that can't reasonably be blamed on Laura Dougall, the first on a giveaway right in front of the UB net, and the second after Cleveland State was fouled in the box. Definitely boom-or-bust results for the defense. Mistakes will happen, but hopefully won't usually lead as directly to goals as they did today.
John and I spent some time talking about possibilities here in one of our preview shows, and now I'm feeling good for bringing it up, as three UB goals came on corner kicks. Julia Benati was of course delivering corners when they were on her side, and it was Andrea Niper and Angel Hart with the honors on the other side. I'm not so sure that Niper's not more valuable providing size in the box, but the results spoke for themselves today. Once we have a game where we're not relying on livestats there will be more to say here, not just on corners, but on free kicks, as well.
Today's result is encouraging -- even as I try not to take too much from it -- for a number of reasons. UB scored on set pieces and generally (looking at the shot totals) controlled the run of play; they played solid defense outside of two big mistakes; and did all that without using any subs on a hot day in Cleveland, even as their opponents brought in fresh legs.
The first real game is just over a week away now, so we'll soon have more to say concretely. The opening weekend against Hofstra and West Virginia will be the toughest two-game stretch UB's had since Western Michigan and Penn State at the end of 2014, but I'm feeling better than I was two days ago.