BUFFALO, NY - There was a playoff atmosphere in the air at UB Stadium Sunday afternoon as the Bulls took Akron in a Mid-American Conference game that had major postseason implications. Senior Aubrey Stahl scored her fourth goal of the season in the 87th minute as UB took an important 1-0 victory. Akron had won the previous four meetings between the two teams.
"It was a meaningful late-season soccer game and both teams knew what was on the line," said head coach Michael Thomas. "Both teams came out and showed a great effort – this game shows a lot of what soccer is about. It's just a game of inches."
The inches went in Buffalo's favor late in the game. After an even match possession-wise, with Akron holding an advantage in shots and corner kicks, Stahl took the ball herself down the left side of the field, cutting in before curling her shot to the high back post and beating the diving Akron goalie.
"Aubrey came out with a great mentality," Thomas said. "The beautiful thing about her is, in the first half the defender was getting the better of her but she just kept going and when she got her chance she put it away."
"The defense came up with a couple of great stops, and we definitely needed that goal and that win," Stahl said. "I thought it would probably be best to cut it back to the middle, it was a little bit of a hard angle on my left (foot). The team coming into this game had a ton of energy. We knew we needed this win and it was time to step up and everyone did."
After making 14 saves in the game (matching her career high), sophomore Ainsley Wheldon earned her ninth shutout of the season, a new single-season program record. She also entered the top ten for most saves in a season, with 118.
"They (the defense) have been the backbone of the team all year, and there's nothing more fitting than to come out on the last Sunday of the season and get a shutout," Thomas said. "Ainsley came out and she did exactly what she needed to do and what we expect of her."
With the win, the Bulls move to 10-4-4 on the season and 3-3-4 in the conference. The ten wins are the most by UB since 2003. Next up will be the regular season finale at UB Stadium against current East Division-leader Kent State. Kickoff will be on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 3 pm.
Now with 13 points in conference play (three points for a win, one for tie), Buffalo passes Akron and Miami (OH) for sole possession of eighth place in the postseason tournament.
Below is the most up-to-date overall standings based on points in the MAC, with the top eight teams in the conference making the tournament. Buffalo is hunting for its first appearance in the tournament since 2003.