The University at Buffalo men's soccer team opened their season on the road, recording one win and one loss in the Lehigh-Army Soccer Classic held this past weekend at Ronald J. Ulrich Field in Bethlehem, Pa.
A four-goal outburst early in the second half led to the Bulls getting shutout 5-0 by the Lehigh Mountain Hawks on Saturday. This marked the first time in five years that the Bulls surrendered the game on opening day.
The Mountain Hawks jumped out to an early lead when forward Kyle Hartman banged a rebound passed starting goaltender Chris Vavrina just 16 minutes into the opening stanza. The Bulls' defense responded strongly though, as they held their opponents scoreless for the remainder of the half.
However, it was not long until lightning struck again as Hartman centered a pass to Dan Percibelli, who gave the Mountain Hawks a two-goal lead just minutes into the second half. The Bulls never made it back into the game, as they faced a scoring barrage resulting in another three goals within seven minutes, all on consecutive shots.
Vavrina, a sophomore, got the start in goal and made four saves. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave the game with an injury after Lehigh's third goal. Junior Brian Wozniak, who made one save on three shots in the final 37 minutes of play, relieved Vavrina.
The Bulls, with the 5-0 thrashing by Lehigh still fresh in their minds, would not stay down, as they came back with a strong first half on Sunday to defeat the Army Black Knights 2-1, gaining their first victory of the season.
Sophomore Dave Pidgeon made sure the Bulls would have the early lead this time by putting a shot past Army goalkeeper Tyler Donnell 29 minutes into the game.
Donnell barely had time to recover, as a pair of juniors teamed up to put UB up by two just four minutes after Pidgeon's tally. Mike Peplinski gave up a pass to Jenton Esworthy who scored his first goal in a Bulls' uniform, which turned out to be the game-winning tally.
The Bulls' defense had a very solid day as they allowed only five shots, making the outing much easier for Wozniak, who got the start. They surrendered the only goal of the day over 70 minutes into the game when Tucker Mahoney put his mark on the board, before UB played shutdown defense for the remaining 19 minutes.
"I think the first game showed that we were just too young of a team, we played a great first half but we couldn't hold it together," said coach John Astudillo. "But in the second game, the returning players really stepped up and carried the team."
For a pair of Bulls' seniors, this past weekend's tourney was something a little more special, as midfielder Bill Nordberg and back Matt Yates were named to the All-Tournament Team for their consistently solid play.
Next up for the Bulls' will be their home opener this weekend, when they host the Bulls Fall Invitational. The team takes on Central Connecticut State on Saturday before going up against Siena on Sunday; both games are set to begin at 2:30 p.m.