That killer instinct: UB soccer continues to look for its groove after a disappointing start to the season
If the Bulls (1-4-1) can learn anything from their first six games, it’s that they have a ways to go if they plan to win a MAC championship this year.
They lost their first three games while only recording one goal, but followed it up with a 5-0 home win. This past weekend, the Bulls couldn’t continue the momentum, going 0-1-1 in two games where they led in ball possession and had several solid scoring opportunities. Results like this show the Bulls’ current problems behind the ball and the potential they have. With only a week and a half before conference play, the Bulls need to make the proper improvements if they are going to tap into that potential and be championship contenders this season.
“We are missing that killer instinct,” said head coach Shawn Burke. “We have the talent, it is just the mistakes we make downfield and not making the most of the scoring opportunities that are beating us.”
The Bulls are using a new offensive scheme while also trying to get many of their freshman players ready to play. Now, many of the returning players have to play full games as the new players continue to get in D1 shape before conference play starts. The result has been occasional bright moments for the Bulls mixed in with late game errors on the field.
A strong area for the Bulls last season was their performance at home having not lost a single game at UB Stadium. This past Friday, that streak came to an end as the Bulls fell to the Cornell Big Red (1-2) on Friday night in a heartbreaking 2-1 overtime loss in their second home game of the season.
“In those last minutes we do not look like the same team; we look tired and unwilling to keep playing which can’t happen at any point during the game,” Burke said.
After the game on Friday, Burke was visibly upset with the team's performance after having spent most of the game with possession and not finding the net.
“At this point, I have to question character,” Burke said. “These girls have to come out and want to win. Right now, it seems we give in the last minutes of the game which can't happen to D1 athletes. They have to be able to do a whole 90 minutes.”
The Bulls’ late game struggles continued as they blew a 2-0 home lead on Sunday afternoon to a 2-2 tie against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (2-5-1). The game marked the third time this season the Bulls have gone to overtime, going winless in all three.
Yet the Bulls remain confident in their abilities, feeling that the talent is there but the team hasn’t tapped into it yet.
“We still need to come together as a team and work together on the field,” said team captain Carissima Cutrona.
Cutrona, a junior forward, came off the weekend with a goal in Sunday’s game and missed scoring opportunities in both games. It seemed every Bull who got near the goal this weekend was playing goaltender against themselves, as most opportunities were either shot wide, over or at the post.
“I do feel like we are missing that killer instinct and you can see that when we get scoring opportunities,” Cutrona said. “You need those opportunities to get the goals in the first place so we are doing something right but doesn’t mean a thing if we aren’t getting the results we want.”
Cutrona feels that the team needs to always have the killer instinct and believes that too often she and the team have mental lapses that cost them.
“We are beating ourselves out there,” Burke said. “We let these other teams come back into the game that we should be winning more handily in the first place.”
Both Burke and Cutrona said sophomore defender Gurjeena Jandu had that killer instinct in her performance over the weekend.
“She played hard in both games and never stopped, and as simple as that sounds, that is what we need to do as a team, not just one person,” Burke said.
Now with MAC conference play around the corner, it is up to the Bulls to come together if they are going to start winning when it really matters. If they can’t, this might prove to be one of the worst seasons for the Bulls in recent memory.
Time will tell if the Bulls will bounce back, but as the season continues, the one thing the Bulls have less and less of is time to turn it around.
Thomas Zafonte is a senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org