Unless you're Erie Community College, it's rare for a local college soccer program to be ranked nationally. Let's not kid ourselves - while Western New York teams are making strides, we're far from a powerhouse region.
Don't tell that to Buffalo State women's soccer, however. In Tuesday's rankings release, Nick DeMarsh's Bengals jumped to No. 23 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll, the highest mark in program history.
Here are five reasons to be pumped up for the Bengals:
1) SUNYAC success: Buffalo State's mission last year was to advance past the SUNYAC semifinals - which they did, stomping Plattsburgh, 4-1, before falling to Oneonta in the conference finals. A trip to England in August tightened the bond between an already tightly knit squad and allowed an earlier start to training by virtue of NCAA rules, setting the stage for a promising 2016.
In other words, there's still hunger within a group that's remained largely in tact, returning several regulars despite losing conference defensive player of the year and second team all-American Gabrianna Boldinski, as well as second-leading scorer Meghan Allen, to graduation.
But, so far, so good. The Bengals have surged through their first five SUNYAC games without a blemish and without conceding a goal.
2) Carillos all around: Now-sophomore defender Alexis Carillo went viral in 2015 because of her flip-throw, but younger sister Taylor Carillo has stolen the headlines this season by not allowing a goal over the last 709 minutes and 50 seconds. Those nearly 12 hours of game time, as you may have guessed, mark a school record, and no small feat for a 5'1 freshman.
3) Melissa Smith - the model of consistency: The senior striker was crowned SUNYAC Offensive Player of the Year last fall, posting 27 points (10 goals, seven assists), and the Pitt-Bradford transfer has continued to shine in 2016, leading the Bengals in points (19) and goals (eight), including a whopping six game-winners.
Despite missing five contests early in the season, forward Tianna Hatch is proving to be a strong complementary scorer yet again, averaging a goal per match over the last three.
4) Appreciating the gaffer: In his 15 seasons at the helm of Buffalo State, DeMarsh has found a preferred style of football and does well to teach it. The concepts aren't particularly tough to understand, but they're demanding of his players, particularly from a fitness standpoint.
It doesn't hurt that his veteran midfield trio of Kristin Seiferth, Breanna Knight and Jenna Smolinski, all upperclassmen and returning starters, can take command on the field in necessary situations.
5) Matches to keep an eye on: The Bengals travel to second-place Plattsburgh - a hostile environment - at 3 p.m. Oct. 14, before a quick turnaround at 1 p.m. the next day against Potsdam, which put a scare into defending-champion Oneonta last weekend.
The next home match, though, is a marquee battle that could well be a preview of the SUNYAC championship game; Buffalo State hosts Oneonta at 3 p.m. Oct. 21.
Email Ben Tsujimoto at firstname.lastname@example.org