UB women’s soccer looking to freshmen for help with title run

Bulls underclassmen have performed well this season

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Not too long ago, the women’s soccer team’s freshmen were playing for their respective high schools and travel teams. Now they’re being asked to help a Division-I program get its second straight conference title and NCAA Tournament appearance.

In most cases, a freshman’s role is reserved to playing some garbage time and giving the stars a rest, but the Bulls (6-5-1, 2-2 Mid-American Conference) have a group of freshmen who are contributing more than most first-year players and want to help get Buffalo its second straight MAC title.

“As a senior, it’s been really easy to lead them and they’re so eager to learn,” said senior defender Kassidy Kidd. “They don’t even seem like freshmen. They just seemed like they jumped right in and fit right in.”

Of the eight freshmen Bulls, five have played in at least 11 games so far this season and two of the team’s top-3 scorers are first-year players. After losing integral parts of last year’s team like Katie Roberts, Courtney Mann and Sophie Therien to graduation, the Bulls are hoping are slowly fill the void with some help from underclassmen.

Assistant coach Casey Derkacz said Buffalo had the expectation its freshmen would perform from Day One.

“That’s always the expectation … trying to establish themselves as integral parts of this program,” Derkacz said. “We always expect quality to enter this program. I think the players expect quality out of this program.”

The most impressive freshman has been forward Carissima Cutrona. The Colgate University transfer and Buffalo native who attended local high school Williamsville South is second on the team in goals (2) and points (7) and first in shots attempted (35).

And she seems to be improving at the most vital part of the season. Cutrona has recorded at least one point in her last three games and totaled 11 shots on goal in that span. She scored the lone goal for Buffalo in its 2-1 loss to Bowling Green last Sunday.

Buffalo has also gotten some offensive production from freshman forward Rebecca Bramble, who scored Buffalo’s lone goal in a 1-1 draw with Niagara on Sept. 8 and is one of only eight Bulls to score this season.

There’s been some freshmen contribution on the defensive side as well. Freshman defender Brianna Shingary is the only freshmen to start all 12 games and she’s also right behind Kidd is assists (2) for Buffalo defenders this season.

Shingary, a Medina, Ohio native, is coming off of a championship as well, as she helped lead her high school squad to a conference title during her senior year. The jump from defending a high school championship to a Division-I conference championship is no easy obstacle. But she’s making strides and head coach Shawn Burke is impressed by it.

“She’s not intimidated by the stage at all,” Burke said. “At the end of the day, whether she’s having a good or bad day, her effort is non-stop. That goes a long way at that level.”

But even Burke admits not all of the freshmen’s success can be contributed to the coaching staff. He relies on his other upperclassmen players to educate as well.

Buffalo freshmen have two upperclassmen teammates that had tremendous freshmen seasons last year in sophomores Laura Dougall and Julia Benati.

Benati, a midfielder, leads the team with four goals and nine points. Dougall, a goalkeeper and reigning MAC Freshmen of the Year, allows less than a goal per game (0.81). All six of Buffalo’s victories this season have been Dougall shutouts.

Their impressive freshmen campaigns translated into this season and Burke may have a reason for their success so far.

“They want to be the best. They want to win,” Burke said.

It’s a good example for the Buffalo freshmen to follow.

The team is still growing, however – it’s something that Burke and Derkacz admit. At just 2-2 in the MAC a year after going undefeated in the conference, the Bulls still have a long way to go before they can call themselves repeat MAC Champions. But having freshmen that can be relied upon may be a key to success this year and for years to come.

Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at jordan.grossman@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on twitter at @jordanmgrossman