UB men’s soccer loses to Akron in MAC Championship Game

Bulls’ breakthrough season ends in finals


After winning just five games last season, the Buffalo men’s soccer team found itself 90 minutes away from winning the program’s first-ever Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship and getting its first-ever NCAA Tournament bid Sunday afternoon.

But a first-half goal by Akron just minutes before halftime ended any chance of that.

The Bulls (8-7-4, 2-2-1 MAC) lost to Akron (15-3-2, 4-0-1 MAC), the No. 3 team in the entire country, 1-0 at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field in Akron, Ohio Sunday. It was their third MAC Tournament Championship Game appearance and first since 2007, where the Bulls also lost to Akron.

“I thought our team played excellent. Excellent,” said head coach Stu Riddle. “We played one of the five best teams in the country and took them down to the wire. There was a slip up and we allowed that goal, it was the one blip the entire game, but I thought we played well out there otherwise.”

The Zips challenged Buffalo’s defense in the first half, as the Bulls played a more defensive game. The Zips finished with 16 shots, while Buffalo had just three. Buffalo’s defensive style also resulted in 19 fouls called in the first half.

However, Akron found a spot late in the first half.

In the 44th minute, Akron’s Victor Souto found a spot in the middle of Buffalo’s defense, taking a shot from the middle of the Buffalo box and finding the back of the net.

“We gave away a silly free kick,” Riddle said, “a couple guys turned their head away from the ball and Akron was able to convert a wonderful goal from the edge of the box. It was really the only mistake and error we made in that first half.”

The Bulls were much more aggressive in the second half, finishing with eight shots to Akron’s 10 shots, but five cards – one red card and four yellow – to Akron’s zero. Their best chance came at the 86th minute, when junior midfielder Russell Cicerone drew a free kick off of a foul call. When Akron blocked the shot, the Bulls couldn’t recover.

In the losing performance, sophomore goalkeeper Joseph Kuta shined, finishing with 10 saves on 11 shots on goal. Kuta’s performance in net allowed the Bulls to remain in position to tie the game and may have solidified his position as the starting goalkeeper next season.

With Kuta and junior defender Daniel Cramarossa, the Bulls will return several key starters next season. Cicerone, recently named MAC Player of the Year and the team’s leading scorer, has another year of eligibility but has also been rumored to be drafted in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft this January, according to NBC Sports.

The only impact player the Bulls are guaranteed to lose is senior midfielder Marcus Hanson who will graduate and had two goals and five assists this season.

“The bulk of team is coming back and they’ve been playing together since freshman year,” Riddle said. “When you look at the big picture, it was a good year. But we want more. We don’t want to get here and lose again. We know we have the talent to get it done, so entering next year, our goal is to get back here and win it all.”

Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Haynes_Spectrum.