For the second straight year, an early goal bit UB Women's Soccer in their opener. Hofstra's Jill Mulholland scores just two minutes in and the Pride held UB the rest of the way to beat the Bulls 1-0.
Considering Hofstra won an NCAA Tournament game last year, it's not an altogether disappointing showing for UB, who impressed with a defense that allowed 21 shots, 8 on net, and 12 corners, but frequently snuffed out chances that could have been more dangerous. But for the early miscue, the Bulls would have a well-earned draw on a game that maybe wasn't as lopsided as the stats show.
Freshmen Gurjeena Jandu and AJ VanCuyck were rock solid, as were seniors Angel Hart and Andrea Niper, while Nicole Gerritz' constant motor is certainly an asset in her move to the back of the formation.
Offensively UB improved as the game went on, playing their best in the mid-second half. The midfield was notably aggressive to loose balls but still lacks the chemistry going forward needed to create strong chances for the forwards. A bit outpaced by Hofstra early, they found their groove roughly 20 minutes in and started to make smarter and more precise decisions on the ball.
Buffalo did struggle in the final third, but some of that can be chalked up to a Pride back line that boasts four returners and two Preseason All-CAA selections. UB's best chances came on set pieces late, as corners and free kicks really look to be a strength for Burke's squad.
Coach Burke seems to still be trying out options on the wing opposite Julia Benati, as a number of players cycled through with varying success. Rebecca Bramble got the start while Kara Daly was also strong in her minutes there.
It's not altogether a different set of questions than the early going last season, though the overall performance was in my opinion much stronger than against St. Joseph's a year ago.
Going forward we'll want to watch the non-Benati wing and the effectiveness and specific positioning of subs like Daly, Jess Marlowe, Meghan Simmons, and Carley Zoccali while hoping that something clicks to improve the final pass or two, because there's no Kassidy Kidd to move around this season.
UB will stay here in State College to take on #6 West Virginia on Sunday. The Mountaineers are opening their season with a blockbuster matchup against #2 and reigning national champion Penn State late tonight.