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Women's soccer reflects on end of historic season

Buffalo lost in first round of the NCAA Tournament last weekend

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This season, the women’s soccer team won the most games in program history, shutout its opponent 14 times and had a 14-game unbeaten streak en route to its first-ever Mid-American Conference championship in program history.

The Bulls’ (16-3-3, 12-0-2 MAC) historic season ended with a 4-1 loss to the No. 6 team in the country, Penn State (18-3-0, 12-1-0 Big Ten Conference) last Friday.

Despite the NCAA Tournament first round loss, team members said they were proud of their accomplishments this season and that this year has changed the perceptions of the program.

“We had a unique group of players, and because of that, we exceeded expectations,” said head coach Shawn Burke. “We were injured a bit early in the season, but we stuck together as a team and fought through it. Overall, we set the standard for Buffalo’s women soccer moving forward.”

The Bulls’ could not overcome the loss of junior defender and MAC Defensive Player of the Year Jackie Hall in Friday’s loss. Penn State scored three goals – including two goals within 90 seconds of each other – in the second half with Hall out of the game due to injury.

“When playing a team of that caliber, you have to play a perfect game,” Burke said. “We won the ball, but we struggled keeping it when we got it. We did a great job in the first half allowing one goal, but the defense was sloppy, we were pressured, and once we lost Jackie, we allowed two quick goals and it’s tough to come back from.”

Buffalo had won just 13 MAC games the previous six seasons. The Bulls won 12 MAC wins this season under Burke. The first-year head coach was promoted from his position as an assistant coach for Buffalo the previous five seasons.

Sophomore forward Celina Carrero said she noticed a difference right away when Burke and his assistant coaches took over that January.

“The chemistry was different from last season,” Carrero said. “Having that chemistry on the field, between the coaches and players, that helped us this season. We didn’t have that last year. We weren’t on the same page, from the player to player to player to coaches. We all wanted to the same thing but it didn’t work out.”

Carrero said it was that chemistry that helped propel a senior-laden team to its first NCAA tournament appearance in school history and turn this “dream season” into a reality.

The Bulls’ last winning season was 2011. The Bulls went 12-5-4 and advanced to the MAC Tournament semifinals before losing to Toledo. Buffalo went 5-12-2 the next season and failed to make the MAC Tournament. The Bulls need to avoid having a letdown season next year, Burke said.

“The biggest thing is avoiding complacency,” Burke said. “Sophomore and juniors … who were here in those down seasons need to remember that and use it as motivation. Our job as a staff is to keep them focus. We want to keep them going forward.”

With senior forward and MAC Offensive Player of the Year Katie Roberts graduating, Carrero will be the team’s returning leading scorer. Carrero had six goals and 18 total points this season. Entering her junior season, she said she sees no reason why the Bulls can’t get back to the NCAA Tournament.

“Coach Burke believes in us and that’s huge,” Carrero said. “There was a time last season where I wasn’t playing well and he sat me down and told me to play my game. Our entire coaching staff is a good support system. We’ll miss our seniors, but I believe we will all take a step forward to repeat last season’s success.”

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