UB men’s soccer retains Big 4 Shield for second consecutive year
Record moves to 8-1-0
After Wednesday night’s win over St. Bonaventure, the men’s soccer team ran in unison to the Big 4 Shield on the sideline and celebrated with True Blue chanting “this is our shield.”
UB (8-1-0) came away with a gritty 2-1 win against local rival St. Bonaventure (1-6-1). The Big 4 Shield is a yearly battle between Canisius, UB, Niagara University, and St. Bonaventure. The shield can change hands at any time in the season if one of the local teams beats the team holding the shield.
UB ended last year with the shield and with their clean sweep of local rivals this year, Buffalo will have its name engraved on the shield for the second consecutive year and will open next season with the shield.
“We knew, despite their record, it was going to be a really tough game cause when these local rivalries happen and the shield is on the line, it raises everyone’s game,” said head soccer coach Stu Riddle.
The game started in a standstill. Both teams had even control of the ball. In the 24th minute, senior forward Russell Cicerone took a free kick from 25 yards out and ripped a laser straight into the net. It was his 11th goal of the season and now leads the nation.
“It’s a big motivational builder for the rest of our team when we get up 1-0,” Cicerone said. “When you score a free kick goal, it’s pure joy, you don’t score many of those in your life.”
Less than a minute into the second half, Buffalo looked to pull away as Cicerone netted his seventh assist of the season on a cross to junior midfielder Ryan Pereira, a surprise starter in the game who netted his first goal of the season. Cicerone stands alone at the top of UB’s all-time assist leaderboard with 20.
St. Bonaventure junior Kieran Toland scored in the 58th minute to make it a one-goal game and from there, things began to get physical.
Within the last five minutes of the game, St. Bonaventure had multiple near-goal attempts, but couldn’t put the ball in the net.
In the 89th minute, UB senior forward Steven Stryker was taken down in the box, but was given a yellow card for diving, giving St. Bonaventure back the ball with one last chance. St. Bonaventure sophomore midfielder Kwame Opoku’s final shot attempt soared over the goal as the clock ticked away.
After the game, Riddle discussed what the shield means to the program.
“Two years in a row, we’ve beaten everyone else in town so we’re setting ourselves apart,” Riddle said. “Record-wise, we’re setting ourselves apart. The results that we’re getting in conference sets us apart from these other teams as well.”
With the shield now in the rear-view mirror, the team is setting their sights on a Mid-American Conference Championship after being runner-up to conference powerhouse Akron last year.
“We’ve got to go and win a MAC championship,” Riddle said. “We won the Big 4 Shield last year, so we matched that again and we got to go one step further in the conference tournament.”
UB men’s soccer will next travel to Binghamton on Saturday to take on the Bearcats (3-2-3).
Brian Lara is a sports staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com