UB women’s soccer season preview
Following graduation of key seniors, everyone plays with something to prove
Just two years removed from a Mid-American Conference Championship, UB women’s soccer faces a unique dilemma.
Following the graduation of All-MAC first-teamers Jackie Hall and Kassidy Kidd, Buffalo remains talented and experienced, but in search of new leadership on the field. Head coach Shawn Burke is looking for a variety of different players to step up and pick up the slack together, beginning with sophomore forward Carissima Cutrona, who has been named a captain for this upcoming season.
“Going into this season I think I’m going to try to step up more as a leader,” Cutrona said. “A unique thing about our team is that there aren’t just a couple leaders on the team. Everyone brings something to the table.”
Coming off a MAC Championship semi-final loss and 11-7-3 (7-3-1 MAC) record last season, Buffalo is looking to fight its way back to the top of the conference on the back of several players head coach Shawn Burke hopes to see take a leap this year. Following a spring season, in which they went 5-0-3, while giving several young players significant playing time, Burke is hoping the performance will carry over to this fall.
One thing Burke is confident in is his goalkeeper.
Going into her junior season, Laura Dougall hopes to continue her stellar career. Dougall has been a key starter on the Bulls since her freshman year, and even though she seems pretty secure in her role as the starting goalie, Burke is impressed with the way she pushes herself in practice, continuing to always play as if she’s fighting for playing time.
“She understands she can’t let her position waver and I think that pushes her every day,” Burke said. “We have a more than capable backup in Cassie [Betancourt] who we know could step into a game and be ready as well.”
This past spring break, the team took a seven-day trip to Spain, which included two games and much team bonding. Burke feels his players learned a lot from the trip and he said the defining moment came after his team tied Villarreal 1-1.
After the final whistle, Buffalo players were exchanging jerseys with Villarreal players as is tradition and Burke said that was really the culmination of the benefits from the trip.
“That was when I think playing in stadiums and fully embracing the culture over there helped the girls appreciate that moment,” Burke said. “It made them realize they are special in a way I think, and that soccer had gotten them to that point in their careers.”
As far as offseason conditioning goes, Burke keeps in touch here and there with his players but mostly trusts them to know they need to keep in shape. Burke believes they know that they are too good as a team to not take pride in that and he feels certain they will put in the work.
Many players put in time with summer leagues on club teams, but Cutrona said she plans on using other ways to keep her body in soccer shape this year without putting in as much time as a summer soccer league requires.
“A lot of girls on our team do play on summer teams, there are summer leagues all over the country that you can play on,” Cutrona said. “There’s also strength and conditioning programs that girls do, and we’re just really trying to stay in soccer shape so we can pick right up where we left off in the spring season.”
In April, Burke said there were some “question marks” going into the fall, but those have since been answered now that he has looked back at the results of their spring season.
Two of those questions were center back and outside back – positions he saw senior Angel Hart and sophomore Nicole Gerritz fill in well this spring.
Asked who he saw as having the best touch on the ball, Burke talked up junior midfielders Julia Benati and Moira Petrie.
Incoming freshmen are also a part of what makes Burke look forward to the fall. Freshmen Gurjeena Jandu from nearby Mississauga, Ontario and Mairead Martin of Mahopac, New York are both examples of local players expected to make an impact playing defense in the backfield for the Bulls this fall.
Adrianna VanCuyck, Kara Daly and transfer Kailin Regan are examples of arriving players who Burke was able to see play well with the local Empire Revolution Club, where a number of other former players have gained experience before coming to UB. Burke said club backgrounds are valuable to him when scouting, as high school stats can be skewed from the variance of competition and clubs typically require a higher skill level.
Corey Klino is a sports contributing writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org