BUFFALO, NY - The opportunities were there, but the Buffalo women's soccer team were unable to convert Friday evening in a 1-0 loss to Eastern Michigan. The loss drops the Bulls to 4-11-2 overall and, more importantly, 2-6-1 in the Mid-American Conference. In a game bitterly contested with equal chances by each side, the Eagles (9-6-1, 6-3 MAC) used a goal in the 75th minute to earn the win, while dealing Buffalo's conference tournament hopes a big blow.
"Both teams generated a lot of opportunities," head coach Michael Thomas said. "I thought in a few ways we were all over them early and we can't let those opportunities go by the wayside. Eastern has two of the best forwards in the MAC and I thought defensively we did a good job of keeping shape and moving so we weren't in those '1v1' situations."
UB almost jumped on top early, earning a corner kick just under a minute into the game. Sophie Therien's boot found the head of Shannon Algoe, and the senior defender's header was put on frame but into an Eagle defender standing in the goal mouth. Courtney Mann also had a pair of chances in the first half, but both were easily handled by EMU goalie Megan McCabe. For the first 45 minutes, Buffalo put five total shots on frame. Goalie Ainsley Wheldon was able to handle Eastern's counter attack on the other end, making four saves in the first half, with each more acrobatic than the last.
After the Eagles focused its attack through the middle of the field and we unsuccessful, it found a glimpse of daylight and converted for a goal in the 75th minute. Megan Trapp took the ball inside the 18-yard box on the left side and slid a cross past Wheldon. Though the junior goalie got a hand on the cross, it squirted by her to a wide-open Bianca Rossi on the back post for the game's lone goal.
The Bulls came just shy of an equalizer just a few minutes later, when Stephanie Velez took the ball solo up the left side and put a cracking shot on frame that was knocked down by McCabe. Despite moving an extra attacker up front for the final seven minutes of the game, Buffalo came up empty in another frustrating decision.
Now the focus shifts to Sunday's match against Western Michigan, a de facto play-in game for a chance to make the MAC tournament. The Broncos are tied for ninth place with the Bulls after playing Akron to a 1-1 tie on Friday night. With Ohio losing to Toledo, the Bobcats sit at 2-5-1 and are in eighth place.
"It's do or die now," Thomas said. "We've fought very hard over the past few weeks to get ourselves back into the mix here, and Sunday, if you win you have a chance and if you lose you're out. It's as simple as that."