Buffalo State men's soccer head coach Mark Howlett was proud of his team for more than the Bengals' 2-1 win over Medaille; it was the fashion in which his side triumphed.
"We've had two good seasons the last two years, but we've never been able to come back from a goal down," Howlett said. "We haven't done it - this is the first time. It's not good. That's what we talked about at halftime. What's our response going to be?"
After Mitchell Ali put the Mavericks ahead in the 17th minute, Buffalo State regrouped after halftime, scoring twice in a span of five minutes to turn the game on its head.
"The first 15 minutes we came out shaky - we weren't doing the things we normally do, kind of getting a little too involved," explained Robert Williamson, who assisted on Luke Pavone's tying goal and scored the winner with his head.
"The coaches told us at halftime to play our game and not to get involved with them, we know when we play our game we can compete with any team in Buffalo and any team in the conference."
*1-0, Medaille, 17': Micky Blythe's Mavericks were rewarded for a terrific start to the match with the opening marker. Pablo Ballesteros slid a nice pass into space on the left side, finding Lachlan Wilkinson with space to run. The forward cut sharply back to his left foot and bent a cross into the middle of the box, where Mitchell Ali was stationed - unmarked - to volley past Bengals goalkeeper Andy Queen from point-blank range.
*1-1, level, 64': As he's done countless times since transferring in from UMass, redshirt-senior Luke Pavone put the team on his back to bring Buffalo State even. After spending the first half jockeying on the left wing with Mavs' captain Anthony Marafioti - there's no love lost between the two - Pavone tucked inside during a surge forward, eyeing a speculative ball in from Williamson.
Without much room to work with, Pavone picked out the lower-right corner with a quick strike, leaving Medaille keeper Matt Gabalski frozen on his goal line.
"A lot of second balls pop out in this game, so you just have to be in the right spot and sometimes it pops out to you," Pavone said. "I just took a good first touch and had to bury it. I've missed a lot of opportunities that I usually don't miss this year, so I knew I had to get that one today."
Howlett lavished praise on Pavone for the captain's killer instinct.
"[He's great in] big-time moments - he's scored out of nothing today, and that's the bottom line," the Bengals' head coach remarked. "When you have someone who can change the game in a second, and that's what we do have in him, you always feel like you're in a game."
*2-1, Buffalo State, 68': Who says there's no momentum in soccer? Center back Danny Clavin's set-piece service from the left side sailed over three Medaille defenders and Gabalski to meet Robert Williamson's head at the far post. It wasn't the cleanest or most powerful header, but it was well-placed from close range.
*GAME FLOW: Medaille had opportunities to bury the Bengals in the first 30 minutes; Mitchell Ali was robbed by Buffalo State's Andy Queen from the doorstep in the first two minutes, then Queen rose to the occasion again by pushing away Wilkinson's well-hit, dipping left-footed volley.
In the 28th minute, the Mavs almost certainly should have doubled their lead when a perfectly-timed through ball from Ali sent Wilkinson in alone - the Australian forward beat a charging Queen cleanly but rolled his shot a foot wide of the left post.
Buffalo State began to threaten more regularly as the first half wound down. Pavone drove a cross from the left side to the head of leaping August Finn, who nodded off Gabalski's crossbar and out.
One of the more awkward moments of the second half came when Bengals' left back Devonte Black jogged in front of the Medaille bench to retrieve the ball for a throw in, before tumbling to the ground. The senior got up angrily and confronted the Medaille reserves, and a yellow card was issued to the Mavs' bench for an intentional trip. If there's karma in soccer, then the next 35 minutes were proof.
After Buffalo State went ahead in the 68th minute, the final 22 were killed off easily by the Bengals, who were content to clear the ball and send few numbers forward. The victorious side's superior depth was evident in the intensity down the stretch.
*UNHERALDED STANDOUTS: Maissa Dieye had to be patient for 45 minutes, but he was inserted as Buffalo State's striker to start the second half. The lanky 6-foot-2 sophomore was a constant threat, smacking the bar off a pretty chest-trap-and-volley, but it was his work rate that put the Medaille defense on its heels.
Although the forward didn't factor into the scoring - though he nearly did with a first-time shot that Mavs' center back Sam Beesley had to clear off his goal line - Dieye proved his value in the ground he covered and the chances he created.
*Xs AND Os: "We knew we started off shaky and we knew we just had to bring the energy second half," Pavone admitted. "Coach told us to push our outside middies up a little bit and that helped a lot to put pressure on their back four."
That directive made Pavone more dangerous in the second half; he began to receive the ball higher up the pitch and expended less energy in finding threatening spots. Although pushing the wingers higher was risky in the sense that it could isolate and expose the Bengals' fullbacks, Black and Zach Caruso met that challenge.
Buffalo State: Andy Queen; Devonte Black, Robert Williamson, Danny Clavin, Zach Caruso; Luke Pavone, Ousmane Sangary, Bucky Benyehuda, August Finn; Ali Shawish, Sofiane Hamadi. Subs used: Maissa Dieye, Josh Beshaw, Nemo Simic, Tony Roncone, Saleman Salim, Victor Powell, Brandon Galanti.
Medaille: Matt Gabalski; Joel Rodwell, Sam Beesley, Kyle Ferguson, Anthony Marafioti; Jackson Hamilton, Pablo Ballesteros, Matt Burke, Mitchell Ali, Mo Hussein, Lachlan Wilkinson. Subs used: Claudio Ramondino, Tom Greenhalgh, James Lang, Given Holy Gbode, Stephen White, Juan Montoya, Job Ayuba.
*TO COME: Season outlooks for both Buffalo State and Medaille are on the horizon. Also expect live tweets and post-game coverage of the D'Youville women vs. the Buffalo State women on Monday night. That match was included in last week's "5 home matches to watch" post.