UB men’s soccer looks to finish the job with three games remaining
There’s an old adage in sports that good teams can win ugly. Last Friday, through the rain and cold, Buffalo men’s soccer played an ugly game against Mid-American Conference rival Western Michigan and managed to come out with a 1-1 tie despite being “outworked,” according to head coach Stu Riddle’s.
With Buffalo (9-3-2, 1-1-1) trailing 1-0 in the 90th minute, senior forward Russell Cicerone went up in the box with less than a minute left in the game and snatched life from the jaws of death as he knocked a header into the net off a cross from senior defender Alec Fisher.
Buffalo will happily take the result, but with just three games remaining in the season and MAC positioning hanging in the balance, UB can’t afford to play another game like the one they played against Western Michigan.
“I was disappointed with our performance against Western Michigan quite frankly,” Riddle said. “We looked disinterested for some reason. It was about the 80-minute mark that we realized we were down, we got some energy and managed to claw out a draw.”
Buffalo will host Northern Illinois (1-9-4, 0-2-1) this Friday and Riddle is urging his team not to overlook them despite their record.
NIU will be playing with their season on the line, as another loss will knock them out of contention for the MAC Tournament. Following the NIU game, Buffalo will host Oral Roberts two days later before hitting the road to take on Bowling Green in the regular season finale. Currently ranked 53rd in the NCAA RPI rankings, Buffalo is hoping for three straight wins to close out the season will make them an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if they can’t win the conference tournament.
“We have three regular season games left, I think if we are able to do our business in those and win a [MAC] semifinal, you are looking at a team that would be 13-3-2,” Riddle said. “We are 53rd in the RPI right now, I can only imagine how those wins would move us forward. We would definitely be hard to overlook at that point.”
Buffalo is also jockeying for position in an extremely competitive conference.
There is more parity in the MAC this year than ever. At 1-1-1 in conference play, Buffalo currently sits at third in the MAC. There are four eight-win teams in the MAC at this point in the season and that doesn’t even include seven-win Akron, who still may have the most talent of any MAC team.
“No one is dead yet [in the MAC], West Virginia just a big win over Akron,” said senior midfielder Braden Scales. “Obviously at the beginning of the year if you asked us if we wanted to be in this spot, we would happily be in it. We put in a lot of work so far, but we want to end higher than where we are now.”
The Bulls are aware that they will need to be consistent if they are going to live up to their goals. Both Riddle and Scales feel that the Bulls have what it takes to pull it off, it will just come down to the effort the Bulls put in.
“Everyone has to be a lot more consistent. I think if we analyze the games we lost, we didn’t get top performances or 7 out of 10 performances from everyone, we maybe got it from two or three players,” Riddle said. “So if we are going to get the results that we need, we need everyone to be 7 out of 10 performers and one guy being a 9 out of 10.”
The Bulls next game is at home on Friday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Thomas Zafonte is a sports staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org