Men’s soccer season comes to an end
Junior forward Richard Craven (8), senior forward Maksym Kowal (9) and the Bulls couldn't get a necessary win against defenseman Charlie Oliver (15, black) and Northern Illinois. Reimon Bhuyan /// The Spectrum
It was as cut and dry as it gets for the men's soccer team. Win, and advance to its third consecutive Mid-American Conference tournament. Lose, and its season comes to an end.
The Bulls (5-11-1, 3-4 MAC) hosted Northern Illinois (6-9-3, 4-2-1 MAC) in their season finale at a cold, wet UB Stadium on Friday night. Buffalo had fought and clawed its way back to playoff contention, after winning its previous three matches. Only one win separated the team from postseason play.
But the slick field and howling winds made it tough for Buffalo to do much offensively as it struggled throughout the first half. The Bulls ultimately finished on the wrong side of a postseason berth, falling to the Huskies 1-0.
"The boys did well in the second half, despite playing on tired legs with two games in three days, which is awful tough in a playoff chase," said head coach David Hesch. "I wish the seniors the best; they played well today, but at the end of the day, it just wasn't enough." Northern Illinois came out attacking and was able to capitalize midway through the first half. In the 28th minute, Huskies' forward Gael Rivera took the ball from the right goal line and found forward Karim Darbaki, who drilled the ball into the upper left corner of the net past senior goalkeeper Jonathan Viscosi for what would be the game winner. Viscosi finished with four saves on the evening.
Although the Bulls were outshot 6-4 in the first half, they had put all four of their shots on goal. In the 31st minute, senior forward Maksym Kowal came storming down the middle of the field, firing a shot on net, but was turned away by the charging Northern Illinois goalkeeper.
The Bulls changed up their attack after the first half. They brought an extra man up on offense and fought for the ball, creating multiple opportunities.
"Our philosophy in the second half was to press them with two guys up top and get turnovers and put shots on net," Hesch said. "I thought we had three or four quality chances to get some goals, and I wish one went in but it didn't."
Senior midfielder Patrick Ryan was all over the field for the Bulls in the second half, creating and setting up quality shots.
In the 80th minute, Ryan fired a ball off a Buffalo corner, but the Northern Illinois defense turned it away before it could reach the net. Just minutes before, Ryan found junior midfielder Richard Craven cutting to the net. Craven's shot went just right and rolled out of play. These were Buffalo's last quality chances of forcing overtime and extending its season.
Kowal, Viscosi and Ryan make up three of Buffalo's six graduating seniors. Forward Joey Merlo and defenders Matthew Chereson and Risto Latti also played their last game in a Bulls uniform.
Viscosi will graduate from Buffalo with the ninth-most career saves (158) in UB history and also finishes in the top 10 for career goals-against average.
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