The UB men's soccer team showed what they were made of this weekend, as they defeated two teams in tournament play to capture the Bulls Fall Invitational Championship at RAC field Sunday afternoon.
Despite having one of the most inexperienced teams in recent years, Coach John Astudillo's squad won both of their games to take the tournament, bringing the team's overall record to 3-1. Sunday's win also marked Coach Astudillo's 110th victory, which makes him the winningest coach in Bulls history, surpassing Sal Esposito's 109 wins.
"I can't even think of the wins, I just think about the guys who got us there. I've had a lot of great players over the years," said a soaking wet Astudillo, not long after being doused with a cooler of water by his players.
Senior Kevin Pitra was named the Tournament Defensive MVP at the awards ceremony Sunday afternoon. Regarding his teammates' accomplishments at the tournament, Pitra said, "I felt like this was a good tournament for us to come together as a team."
Saturday's game, the Bull's home opener against Central Connecticut University ended with Buffalo edging past with a one-goal advantage. The only score of the game came with 6:54 left in regulation. Senior Bill Norberg found a seam in the defense, took a feed from teammate Dan Wielechowski, and rifled it to the back of the net.
Bulls goalkeeper Brian Wozniak earned a shutout as he shutdown the opposition with eight saves off 13 shots on goal. His counterpart Jeff Brunetti of Central Connecticut tallied five saves from 12 shots on goal, but ultimately gave up the game winner in the second half.
Play was aggressive on both sides of the ball, with each team fighting for possession in the second half. "We're playing very simple. We have to [play aggressively]; you can't play a passive game. We're not going to out-technique or out-finesse anyone, but we are going to out-work them," Coach Astudillo said of his team's strategy.
The Bulls continued their aggressive play in the second contest, with even better results. UB dominated the second half of their game against Siena College of Albany, cruising to a 4-0 victory.
Dave Pigeon scored the first goal nine minutes into the match, on an assist by Brandon Myrie to give the Bulls an early lead. They continued to control the ball, keeping play in Siena's half of the field throughout the first half.
The Bulls demonstrated their superior ball handling and passing early in the second half, on a quick strike by Dan Wielechowski. The Bulls quickly broke out of their end, out-raced Siena to the ball, and forward Patrick Beckley fed a pretty pass to Wielechowski who put it home to give the Bulls a commanding lead that they never looked back from. The tone of the game shifted markedly with that goal, as it became evident that the Bulls had the match put away.
Buffalo had 13 shots on goal to Siena's three. Brian Wozniak made a tremendous leaping save late in the first half to keep his shutout alive. Siena's two goalkeepers, Ryan Jordan and Johnathan Hicks each allowed two goals, and had four saves between them.
The Bulls scored twice more in the second half, once on a controversial foul, resulting in a penalty kick which Mike Peplinski chipped into the corner with ease, and the other on a total defensive breakdown by Siena late in the game, which freshman Jeff Gallusser capitalized upon, giving him his first goal as a Bull.
Siena would finish 1-1 overall, beating Canisus 4-1 in the tournament opener Saturday. Central Connecticut also defeated Canisus 4-0 Sunday morning to go 1-1 for the tourney. The Bulls were the only team to defeat both their opponents, and with that they won the invitational.
"We've been riding on our seniors. Pitra, Norberg, Yeates and Peplinski, they've carried this time, while we're learning and adjusting," Coach Astudillo said about the Tournament.
When asked about Brian Wozniak's consecutive shutouts, Astudillo answered, "We're an explosive team once we get going, we have to rely on him to keep us in the game."
Finally, when questioned about how he felt about the rest of the season coming off the tournament championship, Astudillo answered. "I honestly didn't think we'd be gelling so well together at this point. I am pleasantly surprised."