Strong season stopped short in SUNYAC semis

Jordan Dudish passes the ball upfield during Buffalo States playoff loss to Geneseo Wednesday.

Dave DeLuca/The Record

Jordan Dudish passes the ball upfield during Buffalo State’s playoff loss to Geneseo Wednesday.

After a season that saw 16 games decided by one goal or less, it’s no surprise that the Buffalo State women’s soccer team’s semifinal playoff game was decided by something as small as which way the wind blew.

The second-seeded Bengals (11-6-2, 6-2-1 SUNYAC) lost to No. 6 seed Geneseo on Nov. 6, 2-1, at a windy Coyer Field in the SUNYAC semifinals. Geneseo scored both of its goals in the first eight minutes of the game.

Erin O’Connor scored for the Knights in the third minute, after strong winds carried a cross from the wing into the net, just under the crossbar and just out of goalkeeper Linda Banfield’s reach.

“The first goal came from a cross directly,” coach Nick DeMarsh said. “It wasn’t a shot … they had a little bit of luck. It was very windy, and the wind kind of carried the ball in.”

Just under five minutes later, Geneseo struck again, this time on a spectacular shot from Emily Green.

“The second goal was a really good goal,” DeMarsh said. “Their striker received the ball, turned to her left, struck it from a really acute angle with her left foot and smashed it right into the side netting, far post. We were a little bit stunned, but it was what it was.”

After struggling to get the ball out of their own end in the first half, the Bengals managed to get nine shots in the second half with the wind now going their way.

In the 65th minute, senior midfielder Shannon Yokopovich scored on a header off of a corner kick from senior midfielder Jordan Dudish. The Bengals applied heavy pressure in the game’s waning moments, but couldn’t get the equalizer.

In addition to dealing with the wind, DeMarsh said injuries also hampered Buffalo State’s attack. Six forwards were hurt heading into the game.

“We had a bunch of midfielders playing forward,” DeMarsh said. “In fact, our center forward was a freshman defender. That really didn’t help the cause. But I think I got the exact same effort I’ve gotten out of that team every single game. Just gritty, hard, never say die, never give up.”

Despite suffering losing seasons in 2011 and 2012, this season’s success was not a surprise to DeMarsh, who noted that the last few seasons saw many close games. This season, however, the close games seemed to turn in favor of the Bengals — thanks in large part to a strong defense led by Linda Banfield, who set a program record with 10 shutouts this season.

“I think it’s best to go out on top,” Banfield said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the title, but it was a great group, and I wouldn’t have wanted to end (my career) with any other team we’ve had. As a collective, we really succeeded this season, with our record and style of play.

“It’s a great year to end on,” she added. “I don’t have any regrets, other than not winning SUNYACs, obviously.”

While the Bengals lose their three captains to graduation — Banfield, Yokopovich and Dudish — DeMarsh is optimistic that this season’s success will continue next season, starting with defense.

“The core of our back line will be back,” DeMarsh said. “We’ll be pretty stable. It’ll be a big transition losing our three senior captains. They kind of banded together, and led the team. But we’re working hard recruiting … I’m sure it’ll be another good season.”


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