UB soccer's Sunday slump
Soccer team looks to close year strong despite consistency issues
The Bulls (5-6-1, 3-2-1 MAC) have had a busy three weeks, playing twice a week since the start of the conference season but have a reoccurring issue of losing on Sundays.
The Bulls have gone goalless and 0-2-1 over the past three Sunday games. With the final five games of the conference season ahead, it is up to the Bulls to fix their issues if they hope to have home field for the MAC championship playoffs.
“From just the one loss last Sunday, we just went from being in the top three to being in a three-way tie for fifth; that is how good this conference is. If we are not up for it, we will be at the bottom,” said head coach Shawn Burke. “It is about limiting mistakes because for some reason we seem to be paying for all of them.”
But the Bulls have found success on the other days of the week. They are 3-0 in conference play on any day that isn’t Sunday. The Bulls, 3-2-1 in the MAC, are in a prime position to finish in the top four of the MAC conference and earn a home playoff game.
A top four spot remains a goal for this team; the Bulls have never lost a home playoff game under Burke. But if the Bulls are to make the most of their last five games, the Sunday issue has to be fixed, Burke said.
“It definitely is an issue of consistency but fatigue is a factor. They just aren’t the same team they normally are come Sunday,” Burke said. “It is on both sides of the ball but going three Sundays in a row without scoring, that is clearly an issue we got to address.”
Offensively, the Bulls have been hot and cold all year. Just last week the Bulls went from a 2-1 win against the Ohio Bobcats (6-7-1, 3-2-1 MAC) on Thursday to a Sunday 1-0 loss to the Kent State Golden Flashes (9-4-1, 5-1-0 MAC) with no shots on goal.
Junior forward Carissima Cutrona is the leading scorer for the team and has seen consistency issues in both herself and the entire offensive line.
“We settle for a shot before it is open but we have so much skill as a team, we can hold the ball a little more to make quality chances,” Cutrona said.
Cutrona sees improvement within the team each week. She also feels the team is close to playing at the level needed for the MAC championship. For Cutrona, that means a team capable of putting in full 90-minute performances in all of their games.
“We need to come out and fulfill our roles and be patient,” Cutrona said. “Our chemistry keeps getting better and as long as we go out there together we should be able to accomplish our goals for the end of the season.”
The defense is a different story. The Bulls defense looks impressive, rarely giving up shots or scoring opportunities, even on Sundays.
“The four of us have just started playing together as a backline this year so I think we mesh together really well,” said sophomore defender Gurjenna Jandu.
But mistakes are holding back the team.
The Bulls rarely give up scoring opportunities but when they do, the other team takes advantage. This has led to many games where the Bulls controlled ball possession and outshot the opposition yet still lost.
“Our backline needs to always be talking and be on the same page… . As long as we stay steady in the back, we can help our teammates out and move forward,” Jandu said.
Burke believes if more players step up, the team can snap out of the slump. The team is in need of more game changing players that would allow more frequent substitutions. The substitutions would allow the starters more time to rest during the game, combating fatigue.
“We need people to be dialed in and step up,” Burke said. “It is playoff mode for us. We believe we are a top four team in this conference but there are a lot of other teams that really want to prove us wrong.”
The Bulls need to win both games of their road doubleheader this weekend to clinch the top playoff spot.
They face the Bowling Green Falcons (8-5-0, 3-3-0 MAC) on Friday at 7 p.m. and a game against the Toledo Rockets (6-5-3, 3-1-2 MAC) on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Thomas Zafonte is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org