BUFFALO, NY - With only two starters graduating from a team that won eight games in 2012 and a talented group of incoming players, the 2012 season could shape up to be one to remember for the men's soccer team. Buffalo returns at least two experienced and talented returners on defense, in the midfield, and on the attack. Of the 26 goals scored and 25 assists by UB in 2011, the team returns players who accounted for 17 goals and 18 assists. On defense, the Bulls welcome back both goalkeepers who saw action last season, and a young core of defensive backs who have emerged as stout defenders who are also capable of attacking the opposition on offense.
Coming in to add depth to the team will be 13 newcomers who come from talented club teams from all over the world and are already battle-tested. The Bulls have been picked to finish seventh in the Mid-American Conference in the preseason poll.
Returning for the Bulls are all three goalies from 2011, starting with juniors Ryan Aubrey and Jeremy Figler. Aubrey played in four games and recorded 10 saves and one shutout over 335 minutes in goal. Expected to start between the pipes for UB is senior captain Jonathan Viscosi. Viscosi recorded four shutouts and made 79 saves, the 18th most in a single season in program history. He also had a 1.44 GAA and a .782 save percentage.
After losing its entire starting defensive back line prior to last season, the young defense that was put to the test last season comes into 2012 with experience and toughness that comes with a full year of Division I soccer. Senior Matthew Chereson is the veteran of the defense, and stepped up last season to make 10 starts last season. Junior Jesse Andoh and sophomore Lukas Fedler started in every game on defense in their first seasons in the Blue and White, and they were effective both defensively and offensively. Andoh scored a goal and Fedler tallied three goals and an assist.
Vinny DiVirgilio will provide depth but is likely going to spend more time in the midfield after a terrific freshman season that saw him appear in all 18 games and score a pair of goals. Michael Vincelli rounds out the returning group of defensemen. Newcomers Shane Satar, Jake Jacobs, and numerous other freshmen will also vie for minutes on either defense or in the midfield in their first seasons at Buffalo.
The UB midfield might be even more deep than the defense, with four major starters coming back. Leading the way is 2012 co-captain Richard Craven, who made 17 starts and scored three goals and added a hard-nosed edge that personifies the team as a whole coming in to this season. Joining him will be Patrick Ryan and Risto Laetti, two of the best table setters on the team. Ryan led the team with five assists last season while starting 17 games, while Laetti dished out four assists and made 16 starts. Sophomores Nate Richardson and DiVirgilio will also see time, as will junior college transfer Steve Mounnarat and freshmen Braden Scales, and Austin Stephany will also serve as depth.
The Bulls will have more experience and athleticism on the attack this season despite losing leading goal scorer Andy Tiedt. Seniors Maksym Kowal and Joey Merlo return as the top returning scorers and will now have a second full season as premier threats after just finding their legs as every day starters in 2011. Kowal scored four goals and added three assists, and Merlo also scored four times in his first season with the team. Sophomores Garfield Williams and Richardson also return on the attack. For the newcomers, the Bulls added a mix of veteran talent and freshmen who have had successful prep careers. Junior transfer Marek Albert has already performed as a college forward, and freshmen Marcus Hanson, and Pierantonio Tassone will try to spark the offense off the bench.
The Bulls will challenge themselves with a 10-game non-conference schedule and seven games against Mid-American Conference foes, including new member West Virginia. The Bulls will also renew rivalries with three regional non-conference opponents.
The team will face Canisius at Demske Sports Complex on Aug. 24 to start the season before opening its home schedule at UB Stadium with a night game against St. Bonaventure Aug. 28. That game begins a four-game home stand that includes matches against Binghamton (Aug. 31, for the first time since 2004), Siena (Sept. 2), and Detroit (Sept. 7).
The team will then set out for three road contests starting on Sept. 9 at Cornell. Then it will take on NJIT Sept. 14 before facing Stony Brook for the first time in the regular season since 1990. The non-conference season will draw to an end with two more home games, against Albany (9/21) and Robert Morris (9/23).
The MAC season opens with a road match against defending regular season champion Akron on Sept. 29. After that, the team will play at West Virginia Oct. 7 and Bowling Green Oct. 13 before opening the home conference slate with a pair of Friday games on Oct. 19 and 26 against Florida Atlantic and Western Michigan, respectively.
After traveling to Hartwick on Oct. 30, the regular season will close with a match against defending MAC tournament champions Northern Illinois on Nov. 2. Last season, the Bulls upset the 18th-ranked Huskies 2-1 in double overtime in DeKalb before falling 1-0 in the conference tournament semifinal.