UB Men’s soccer readies itself for MAC Tournament rematch with Bowling Green
UB men’s soccer traveled to Bowling Green this weekend knowing that a win would make them the regular season Mid-American Conference Champions and give them home field advantage in the MAC Tournament.
It would have snapped Akron’s 11-year streak of winning the MAC regular season title.
UB (11-3-3, 2-1-2 MAC) played Bowling Green (9-5-4, 2-0-3) to a 0-0 tie in a Saturday night slugfest. They will face off against Bowling Green for the second game in a row in the first round of the MAC Tournament this Friday.
Buffalo finished the season with an impressive 11-3-3 record and following Saturday’s tie, the Bulls are the No. 3 seed in the MAC Tournament. The Bulls will have a week to prepare for their most important game of the season as they travel to Akron, OH on Friday.
Head coach Stu Riddle is proud of his team, who completed one of the greatest seasons in program history.
“I think if you look at the body work this season, the fact we are 11-3-3, we have individual records in scoring and goalkeeping, had a very lopsided MAC schedule with two home games and three away with two of those teams being ranked top 25 in the country and we have come out of that looking really good,” Riddle said.
Riddle believes the No. 3 seed is a good spot for the Bulls. The team doesn’t have to worry about playing Akron in the opening round. The coach feels Friday’s game will be different, despite playing the same team two weeks in a row. Specifically, he thinks the condition of the field will play a major factor.
Bowling Green was undefeated at home this season, where last Saturday’s game was played. Bowling Green’s home field is grass, whereas Buffalo normally plays on turf. Riddle described the field as “wet and muddy” during last Saturday's showdown, something that will not be the case on Akron’s turf field this time.
“When we play Bowling Green in Akron, I know the field will be in our favor,” Riddle said. “I attribute part of last night’s play to the condition.”
Saturday night also marked a historic game for senior goalkeeper Joseph Kuta, who tied the Bulls single season shutout record with his 10th clean sheet of the season.
“Joseph has made me so pleased with him because he is an exceptional goalkeeper that has developed so well under our goalkeeping coach Matt Brown,” Riddle said. “Now, he is taking all that onto the field and we feel he is unbeatable right now.”
Riddle had nothing but praise for his team's defense, a constant strong point all season.
Offensively, Riddle has a different take on his team. The coach is tired of seeing just one or two strong performances on offense instead of the entire offensive line.
“We know defensively we are resolute… teams aren’t getting good scoring opportunities against us,” Riddle said. “The responsibility falls on the forwards, who have not really performed to their fullest this season.”
Riddle has said throughout the season that for his team to succeed, he would need solid play from everyone so the strong performances can really be maximized. He attributes missed scoring opportunities to mental lapses.
If there has been one consistent fault to this Bulls team this season, it has been these missed scoring opportunities. For Riddle, it is a matter of “turning a switch on” and playing without these lapses.
Riddle points to these lapses as a reason why the team lost in the MAC Championship Game to Akron last year and he does not want the same results again this year.
Akron will take on Western Michigan (9-5-4, 1-1-3) following the conclusion of UB’s game Friday.
“We want to play the winner of the other game. If that happens to be Akron, great, if it happens to be Western Michigan, great,” Riddle said. “They are both very good opponents, Western Michigan was the only team to get a result against us at home this year… I am sure if we make it to the championship game, we will play a very worthy opponent.”
The Bulls play Bowling Green this Friday in the first round of the MAC championship.
Thomas Zafonte is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org