Fresh off an opening weekend in Pennsylvania that was more impressive than the 0-1 and 0-2 scorelines indicate, Women's Soccer opens their home season this evening against St. Bonaventure, a local rival that topped the Bulls 2-0 in 2015 despite Buffalo outshooting and outcornering the Bonnies. The game will be streamed on UB's YouTube channel and livestats will be available on ubbulls.com
This season, the Bonnies lose three seniors who were dangerous offensively all year in 2015 and burned the Bulls in particular last season. Abby Maiello, Stephanie Jenkins, and Lauren Hill totaled 18 goals and 10 assists and combined for both goals and both assists in that 2-0 win, but have now graduated and leave Bonaventure with only one senior and three freshmen, including keeper Lauren Malcolm, in their starting lineup.
One of those freshmen, WNY native Sydney Cerza, originally committed to Buffalo during her junior year at Clarence in the midst of a career that saw the Red Raiders advance to the state semifinals in both her junior and senior season, losing to eventual champion Massapequa both years. Somewhere before or during her senior year, likely timed with Carissima Cutrona's transfer to Buffalo, Cerza quietly flipped to the Bonnies and stepped right into their starting lineup after Maiello's departure.
The Bonnies weren't wildly impressive in their season-opening draw with Binghamton, getting outshot 14-11 in total, 4-0 in overtime, and 7-3 in shots on target. The Bearcats were totally punchless in 2015 and lost two leading scorers to graduation, so it's notable that they seemed to have the better of the Bonnies. St. Bonaventure found offense from places you'd expect: returning starters Danielle Vis, Miley Jarvis, and Jessica Scruggs and the freshman Cerza. Jarvis scored the goal, but each of the four managed two shots over the 110-minute match.
Head Coach Steve Brdarski does return a good chunk of experience on defense, with three returning starters and last year's keeper Beth Moore in addition to Malcolm, who got the start against Binghamton. It's feasible that this group could stymie UB's offense enough to narrow a somewhat lopsided game, as they did against the Bearcats, but they're also certainly not of the caliber of the Hofstra and West Virginia defenses Buffalo faced last weekend.
Even for the team as it existed pre-Kassidy Kidd position switch last year, the 2015 loss to St. Bonaventure was out of character. Considering the strides taken in MAC play, it looks worse and worse. This year's matchup almost has to be different if UB wants to build on their strong opening weekend.
We'll be looking for the Bulls defense to remain decisive and consistent in their decision making. They should have a physical advantage and barring a moment of individual brilliance or colossal brainfart it's hard to see Bonaventure getting a goal.
The bigger questions are on offense. I'll be looking for the midfield to build on their improvement from Hofstra to West Virginia, benefit from having more time to make decisions on the ball, and get the ball onto forward feet in the final third much more than we've seen. Carissima Cutrona, Kara Daly, and Rebecca Bramble had some creative runs and on-ball work, while Julia Benati and Moira Petrie also had a bunch more chemistry on Sunday. A similar performance should yield multiple goals against the Bonnies.
John will be in attendance and should have something of a recap up shortly after the game.