Velez’s ghoulish goal sets up do-or-die battle versus Zips
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
With its back against the wall last weekend, the women’s soccer team came out and played some of its best soccer of the season.
In a must-win game, Buffalo (5-11-2, 3-6-1 Mid American Conference) defeated Western Michigan (5-8-4, 1-4-4 MAC) 1-0 on Sunday. The lone goal came on a free kick from senior forward Stephanie Velez in the 86th minute to keep the squad’s postseason hopes alive.
The Bulls were awarded a free kick from the 50-yard line one minute before. Upon putting the ball in the box, a foul was called on the Western Michigan defense. The Bulls’ attack then huddled up and formulated its game plan for the ensuing free kick.
Velez wanted the shot.
“We were working too hard for it not to come out with a win for us.” Velez said. “I stepped up and said, ‘I want to take it.’ I haven’t been able to shine as much this season, and as soon as I scored I was happy that we still have a chance to be in the playoffs.”
Velez put the ball in the left corner of the net – a shot Western Michigan keeper Michelle Watson had no chance of stopping. It was a breakthrough performance for Velez after a tough past couple years.
“Steph [Velez] has fought through a lot of adversity and injuries since she’s been here, and it’s a testament to her confidence and mental fortitude that she could step up in that moment and hit that shot,” said head coach Michael Thomas.
Buffalo outshot Western Michigan 16-12 in this contest and much of the match was spent with Buffalo attacking the net. The Broncos are one of the teams fighting with Buffalo for the two final playoff spots, which made the win all that more important for the Bulls.
“The team came out and showed what we were capable today, and it’s exciting to give ourselves a chance going into the final game,” Thomas said.
The Bulls had an opportunity to take the lead in the 63rd minute as Watson committed a handball outside of the box. Sophomore forward Megan Giesen fired a shot on net, which bounced off the crossbar and went out of play.
Giesen and sophomore forward Courtney Mann combined for seven shots for the Buffalo attack.
Junior goalkeeper Ainsley Wheldon had seven saves and picked up her 15th career shutout, which moved her into sole possession of second place in Bulls history. Much of the shutout was credited to Buffalo’s defense.
“The back line came out and played near perfect today and I think the shutout constitutes that,” Thomas said. “Ainsley handled all the routine stuff today, but I don’t know that she had to make a big save all day, and that’s a testament to the back four of [senior] Shannon Algoe, [freshman] Kristin Markiewicz, [sophomore] Sophie Therien and [junior] Natalie Jurisevic, who all played 90 minutes today.”
The Bulls have one more match to try to secure a postseason birth. They will host rival Akron (5-11-1, 1-8-1 MAC) Thursday afternoon. The Bulls still hold their destiny in their hands, as a victory would secure a ticket to the MAC Tournament. They continue to battle with Ohio (8-8-1, 3-5-1 MAC) and Northern Illinois (7-8-2, 3-5-2 MAC) for the final two postseason bids.
Ohio is set to take on Kent State (11-4-2, 6-3-1 MAC) on the road, while Northern Illinois will take on the defending MAC champion Toledo (7-10-1, 5-4-1 MAC) in Toledo, Ohio.
Kickoff for the Bulls’ battle with the Zips is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon at UB Stadium as the Buffalo looks to extend its season.