Synchronicity

Soccer team looks to return to winning ways after first loss in over a month

soccer-rebound-1

The Bulls soccer team went from beating down teams to having its toughest loss of the season all in one weekend.

After beating the Northern Illinois Huskies 5-0 on Friday night, the Bulls traveled to Kalamazoo, Michigan for a game against the Western Michigan Broncos. But when the Bulls arrived from the three-and-a-half-hour drive, the team was met with an overbooked hotel. Though the team straightened things out, it wasn’t an ideal situation for a team that needed rest.

On Sunday, Western Michigan snapped the Bulls’ seven-game winning streak with a 4-2 Bulls loss.

“It was definitely an issue everyone hates to come across,” said senior forward Carissima Cutrona. “But stuff like that happens, I would say it didn’t affect us but with the change in time zones it didn’t help.”

The Bulls (7-2, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) and the Broncos (8-2, 2-0 MAC) have shaped up to be two of the best teams in the MAC. The game was decided by two penalty kicks. Both were in favor of Western Michigan to give them the two-goal lead and the win. The Bulls were down 4-0 heading into the final 10 minutes when it scored two goals in a quick succession but it wasn’t enough.

“We just weren’t disciplined,” said junior defender Gurjeena Jandu. “As the game went on we definitely started to play with the same mentality. When we are on the same page, we are unstoppable.”

Both players and head coach Shawn Burke said Western Michigan was one of the best teams they have played. The Broncos were able to use its speed to get the Bulls to play at a pace which the Buffalo style was not ready for.

Burke said even with the setback, he was impressed with “the fight” the team showed in both games. 

The Bulls started the game against the Huskies (1-9, 0-2 MAC) 0-0 for the whole first half.

“We wanted to make a statement,” Burke said. “We started slow going into the half scoreless. We’ve talked to the girls about how they need to put away teams and really get that final nail in. I was thrilled with the second half, we scored three of our goals in less than a minute. You can’t ask for more as a coach.”

Burke said the same mentality was there for the Western Michigan game despite the result.

“I saw us playing out there for 90 minutes,” Burke said. “We didn’t take our foot of the gas, we didn’t get tired and we never stopped trying to win. That’s why we were able to get those goals at the end. You hate to see a game decided by penalties but that’s how it went down.”

The Bulls will be home for the upcoming weekend with two games at UB Stadium. On Friday the MAC season continues in a game against the Central Michigan Chippewas (4-6, 2-0 MAC) with a start time of 7 p.m. Burke said the main focus will be on senior Chippewa’s forward Lexi Pelafas who has six goals and three assists this season. Pelafas received a first-team MAC selection last season.

“We know what we have to do to stop her,” Jandu said. “We have been playing her for two years now. We can stop her and keep her contained during the game. All we have to do is stop her from changing the way we play.”

Jandu said this was the most talented team she has been a part of in her career. Cutrona said similar and called the team, “the best one I’ve been a part of at UB.”

Burke said the focus on practice this week will be focusing on the lapses the team had on both offense and defense. An aspect that Burke said will be an easy fix given the level of talent on the team. 

The Bulls will play the Eastern Michigan Eagles (6-5, 1-1 MAC) on Sunday at 12 p.m.

Burke said the Eagles will be another tough opponent based on a solid defense the team implements. The Eagles have only given up two goals in MAC play so far.

“Eastern is very dangerous,” Burke said. “This past weekend the freshman learned that Sundays are hard and tiring. Being at home this week we will definitely be ready for them.”

Thomas Zafonte is the senior sports editor and can be reached at thomas.zafonte@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @Thomas_Spectrum