BUFFALO, NY - Lead by a goal from Stephanie Velez and an inspiring effort from backup goalie Sarah Moore, the Buffalo women's soccer team (2-8-2, 0-3-1 MAC) earned its first point of the Mid-American Conference season Sunday afternoon, drawing even 1-1 with Northern Illinois (5-4-2, 1-1-2 MAC).
"We wanted to win today and I think we played well enough to get the win today. Without ever being satisfied with not getting a win at home, I am satisfied with the team today," head coach Michael Thomas said. "We came out and moved the ball extremely well and created chances, and then with everything that has been going against us it would have been really easy to go away and put our heads down after going down 1-0."
The Bulls nearly scored first, but N'Dea Johnson's header off a free kick in the sixth minute struck off the top left corner of the goal post and Taylor Thompson's attempt to corral the rebound was denied by the Northern goalie. The Huskies would then take the lead in the 17th minute after Sara Spaulding chipped a shot over Moore in a crowded box following a cross in from Frances Boukidis.
That would be all Moore would allow though, as she made 11 saves in the game, the most the team has recorded all season. The redshirt sophomore made six saves in the second half and, more importantly, three saves in the final overtime period.
"We're big believers in our depth, and that everybody needs to train to be ready to step in. Goalkeeper is an experience position, so I thought that Sarah Moore did a great job stepping in with very little experience," Thomas said.
Moore credited an opportunity to prepare for the match as a reason for her career game.
"I had a better feeling today because I wasn't thrown in, I was able to get warm and mentally prepare so I felt a lot better," Moore said. "I was just ready to play in a game, I haven't played in a game in a very long time. It's just getting the right mentality, using your muscle memory and believing in yourself."
With Moore and the defense holding down the Huskie attack, the Bulls were able to score the game-tying goal early on in the second half. Taylor Thompson took the ball into the 18-yard box on the right side and drew the attention of a pair of Northern Illinois defenders and the goalkeeper. Despite taking a hard hit, Thompson was able to hold the ball long enough to play a low pass across the goal mouth where Johnson and Stephanie Velez were waiting with a wide-open goal. Velez scored easily for her first goal of the season.
"It was a great individual effort by Taylor, she was able to eliminate two defenders and the goalkeeper just with the assist," Thomas said. "One of the thing I appreciated was that we had several blue jerseys in there and it was the commitment of the other players to get in the box that led to the goal."
The Bulls had numerous other chances in the second half, most notably two shots by Lauren Coviello. Pressed into major minutes due to injury woes, the junior almost found goal in the 50th minute but her shot from 25 yards out skidded inches shy of the left side of the net. Only a few minutes later, she put a flicked header off a free kick on frame but it was scooped up for a save.
In the first overtime period, the Bulls held a slight advantage and were able to put a shot on goal, but in the final 10-minute period it was all about the UB defense stepping up to earn the tie. The Huskies took seven shots, three on goal, in the final overtime.
Next up will be four straight MAC road games, starting with a momentous weekend coming up against a pair of East division rivals. On Friday, the Bulls head to Kent State for a rivalry match against the Flashes at 4 pm. Then on Sunday, it's off to Ohio for a 1 pm match against the Bobcats.