The men's soccer team clinched a spot in the Mid-American Conference Tournament with its victory on Sunday afternoon at UB Stadium.
The Bulls (7-8-1, 3-2-0 MAC) topped Florida Atlantic (5-7-2, 2-3-0 MAC) 1-0 to move into a second-place tie in the conference standings.
The game was a physical, defensive-minded battle, which saw Buffalo dominate the first half and hold off a late Owl surge in the second to come away with the win. The victory puts the Bulls in great position in the standings with one game remaining in the regular season.
Buffalo is going into every game with the mindset that every match is going to be a battle. Head coach John Astudillo knows how important each performance is and is preparing his players to take the field with a higher level of focus each day.
"We knew this game was going to be a battle," Astudillo said. "We are already in the playoff mindset."
The effort in the first half was a huge reason that the Bulls were able to pick up the victory on Sunday afternoon.
"Our performance in the first half was very strong," Astudillo said. "It was our best in a long time – we played well. We both defended and attacked very well."
The relentless offensive attack of the Bulls helped them head into halftime with a 1-0 lead. Buffalo outshot the Owls 12-4 in the first half alone. The Bulls were able to keep the ball on their opponent's side of the field for the majority of the half, as they were constantly threatening.
A huge reason for the success in the first half was the play of senior defender Casey Derkacz. Astudillo was very pleased with his play.
"Casey was formidable in the first half," Astudillo said. "Not only was he defending well, but he also did a great job starting our attacks. He was just solid."
Derkacz also assisted on the Bulls' only goal of the game. The goal came in the 33rd minute from junior forward Mike Unwin. It was Unwin's team-leading fifth goal of the year.
Unwin almost outshot Florida Atlantic by himself, but his 11 shots were one short of the Owls' 12.
The game was a physical battle that saw plenty of fouls for both sides. Florida Atlantic recorded 15 fouls, while the Bulls had 13. There were also two red cards given out after a heated altercation in the 66th minute.
The Owls were called for a foul when Buffalo freshman midfielder Richard Craven was knocked to the ground. Despite the call, an Owls player continued playing and kicked Craven in the face with the ball. This caused the players on the field to start a small fight, resulting in red cards for both teams.
The victory was huge for the Bulls, as they are preparing for the conference tournament.
"We know every game is important at this time of the year," Astudillo said. "We keep on getting better. We are learning how to win the close games. There is so little margin for error at this point in the season."
The Bulls' final game of the regular season is at 7:30 p.m. at UB Stadium on Friday night against the Western Michigan Broncos (8-7-2, 3-2-0 MAC). The game has major playoff implications, as the teams are currently tied for second place in the conference standings behind the nation's best team, Akron.