MAC Play For Soccer Begins This Weekend; Bulls Welcome WMU & NIU To Buffalo

Sidney Reeves

BUFFALO, NY – After closing out non-conference play in impressive fashion on Friday night on the road, the University at Buffalo women's soccer team opens up their Mid-American Conference slate at home this weekend. The Bulls will welcome the Western Michigan Broncos on Friday night at 7:00 pm before hosting the Northern Illinois Huskies at UB Stadium on Sunday at 12:00 pm.

The Bulls enter Friday night's match with a 2-4-1 record through seven non-conference matches. UB closed out non-conference action with a decisive 3-0 victory on the road against Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure, marking the Bulls first road victory since 2015. The Bulls are unbeaten in three of their last four matches and have scored 11 goals over that span.

Buffalo ended their non-conference slate going 2-1-1 over their final four matches and scored an average of 2.75 goals/game over that stretch. The offensive produced 12 goals through seven matches after only producing eight through eight matches a season ago.

UB's offense is led by junior forward Carissima Cutrona who has netted three goals and three assists for nine points while also recording a team-high 19 shots. The Williamsville native currently ranks 15th in program history in goals (16) and 16th in career points (41). Sophomore Kara Daly has continued to produce at a high level for the Bulls as she has notched two goals and three assists for seven points while seniors Julia Benati and Moira Petrie have notched five and four points respectively while creating major problems in the midfield for UB opponents with their creativity.

Defensively, the Bulls have begun to tighten up as they have allowed four goals over their last four matches while also recording a pair of shutouts over that stretch. The backline duo of Gurjeena Jandu and Adrianna VanCuyck, both sophomores, has turned into a formidable combination for the Bulls that have made it tough on opposing players to get into dangerous areas. Freshman Marcy Barberic has turned into a budding star for the Bulls playing outside back while junior Rebecca Bramble has become a consistent performer on the back line as well.  Between the pipes, senior Laura Dougall has posted a 1.36 goals-against average, .796 save percentage and two cleansheets so far this season. The Pickering, Ontario native currently holds the program record for shutouts in a career (29) and is tied for the program record for wins in a career (34).

The Western Michigan Broncos enter the MAC opener with a 5-2-0 record as they have won three straight matches by shutout. WMU took down Valparaiso 1-0 in their final non-conference match of the season on Friday night behind a goal in the 40th minute. The Broncos are being led offensively by Grace Labadie who has notched three goals, an assist and seven points while Tiffany Buckler has netted a pair of goals on eight shots. Alex Ruffer and Ashleigh Garcia are tied for the team lead with two assists on the year. Between the pipes, Stephanie Heber owns a 0.97 goals-against average, a 0.825 save percentage and four cleansheets.

Friday's matchup will mark the 26th meeting in program history between the Bulls and Broncos with Western Michigan owning the slim 10-9-6 all-time series record over UB. Buffalo is 1-2-2 against the Broncos in the last five meetings with UB's lone win coming in the 2014 MAC Championship match at UB Stadium as the Bulls collected their first MAC Tournament Championship with the 1-0 victory.

Northern Illinois will travel to Akron on Friday night before coming to Buffalo on Sunday afternoon. The Huskies enter this weekend with a 3-3-1 overall record after dropping their last two matches. NIU fell at home to Milwaukee 2-0 and to Northern Iowa 3-2 in their last two matches of the non-conference schedule. The Huskies are being led offensively by Taylor Sarver who has netted two goals and five points while Natalia Pena and Lauren Gierman have each notched three points on the season. In goal, Amy Annala has posted a 1.12 goals-against average, a .778 save percentage and three shutouts while making 28 saves on the season.

The meeting on Sunday will mark the 21st meeting between the two squads in history with UB holding the slim 9-8-3 edge over the Huskies in the all-timer series. Buffalo is 1-0-2 against NIU over the last three seasons with the win coming in 2015 by the score of 4-1. Last season the two sides played to a 0-0 draw in Dekalb despite UB owning the 12-7 edge in shots and the 9-2 edge in corner kicks.

After opening MAC play at home this weekend, UB will have their first MAC road tests of the 2017 season on Friday, September 29 as they travel to Eastern Michigan and Sunday, October 1 as they head to Central Michigan.