The Western New York Flash's first season in United Women's Soccer zoomed by at a rapid rate, but lost in the whirlwind campaign was the amateur women's side's sterling finish.
Head coach Gary Bruce's team took three of their last four matches, including two against rival Rochester Lancers, en route to a respectable 4-4-2 record and fifth place in the UWS East Conference.
Although the slow start to the season essentially prevented the Flash from making the playoffs, individual postseason awards - handed to Carissima Cutrona and Dani Braun - meant Western New York was not forgotten.
Standout midfielder-forward Cutrona, set to begin her junior year at the University at Buffalo, was picked for the All-United Women's Soccer first team, spanning all three conferences, as well as for the All-East Conference squad. The Williamsville South High School alum tallied 11 goals and four assists over eight matches, including a wild three-game streak where she mustered eight goals and four assists.
Here's Bruce's statement about her achievement:
"It wasn't a surprise to watch the goals and assists add up for Carissima over the course of the season. She's a player that knows no big or small moments, a quality that helps her finish in front of goal, but also play in training with the same intensity as if it were a game.
Additionally, It was a pleasure all summer to witness her sharpness of thought and decision making around the box. If her training habits were her doorway to the East Conference first team, I think of her cunning as the doorway to the All-UWS team.
Both honors are well-deserved, and it's satisfying to see a player like her rewarded for her commitment to play in for a league that exists, in part, to provide additional development opportunities and exposure for collegiate players."
Braun's season was more understated statistically, but her presence helped stabilize a team that battled ups and downs. The All-East Conference second-team selection was recognized for her composure on the ball, positional versatility and sheer endurance - the Iroquois High School alum also claimed a spot on the Iron Women list for playing every minute of every match.
The postseason accolades came as a surprise to Braun, who played collegiately at Mercyhurst (2009) and D'Youville ('10).
"I hadn't played at a very competitive level in a long time and in my mind I was just trying to compete and keep up with the girls surrounding me," she said. "Our team had so many solid players I didn't think I would even be looked at for something like [this]."
Here's what Bruce said about Braun's impact:
"With the entrance of the WNY Flash into the UWS in 2017, there are a handful of adult players from the Buffalo area that had the chance to play organized and competitive women's soccer again. For Dani, a married woman with a career, to commit to playing for a team at this level meant finding new layers to what it means to find balance in life.
I can't be more thankful she made the commitment, as she played a large role in the team's performance on game day. As thankful as I am to have gotten to work with her, I'm proud of her for having played in all those co-ed and women's indoor leagues between when she graduated college and this summer to keep developing into the kind of player that can play at as high of a level as she did.
There are many reasons why she played every minute of every game for us, her experience with the game at the forefront."