UB men’s soccer looks to move past Akron loss, keep postseason hopes alive
Last Friday, the UB men’s soccer team (8-3-1) had their worst loss of the season, losing 4-0 on the road against rival Akron.
Akron was the first ranked team the Bulls played this season and on Saturday they will take on West Virginia, another team receiving NSCAA Coaches Top 25 votes. Following a 7-0-0 start to the season, Buffalo has stumbled of late and for a team hoping to make its case for a possible at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, it’s gut-check time.
“We got punished by a very good team,” said head coach Stu Riddle. “We just have to take that on the chin and move on. We will be better for it when we play West Virginia on Saturday.”
Friday’s loss was a tough one for the Bulls, who gave Akron everything they could handle last year in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game with most of the same players on the field. Riddle believes his team will rally together following the tough loss and get back on track.
“[This team is] ever-growing, it is a senior and junior filled team,” Riddle said. “They have had good experiences and bad experiences, they have learned that you can’t get too high and you can’t get too low. Now we just need to stay focused on the next game.”
At their Wednesday practice at UB Stadium, Riddle had his team practice finishing at the net. He wants the Bulls to stop giving up scoring opportunities so they will not just be ready for West Virginia, but for the rest of conference play.
“We’ve been gifting opponents goals that shouldn’t happen and we have been working on finishing,” Riddle said. “We have missed opportunities to score and that shouldn’t happen.”
Senior midfielder and captain Braden Scales understands that the most important games are ahead of them and they still control their own destiny in terms of the postseason. If they can win the games in front of them, especially Saturday’s game against West Virginia, they will be hard to deny.
“We have a bunch of important games coming up,” Scales said. “Next with a ranked opponent and a few other eight-win teams in our conference. We have to play those two at home, we have a lot of confidence there so our large bid chance and our chance for the conference looks really good.”
This year is one of the better seasons in recent memory for MAC men’s soccer. Bowling Green and Western Michigan are both eight-win teams and Akron and West Virginia are still viewed as national favorites. It will be a dogfight for UB over their final four conference games.
“There are a lot of tough teams in this conference and it will be extremely difficult whether it is home or away,” Riddle said. “If you can get a road win against a team like that (West Virginia), it would be an incredible boost for us.”
Scales said the Bulls can still beat Akron if they meet again in the MAC Tournament. For now, the Bulls are focused on the team in front of them, and that is West Virginia.
The Bulls play at West Virginia on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Thomas Zafonte is a sports staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org