University at Buffalo women vs. Canisius
7 p.m. Sept. 6 at UB Stadium (North Campus, Amherst).
What to know about UB: The pressing question went from "Who will replace graduated Laura Dougall?" to "Will Emily Kelly ever allow a goal?" The freshman keeper from Wilson, a product of the Western New York Flash Academy, has kept three straight clean sheets for Shawn Burke's Bulls. The scoreless streak has reached 330 minutes, and it's not all Kelly, as defender Gurjeena Jandu, Tess Ford, Adrianna Van Cuyck and Rebecca Bramble have all pitched in.
An encouraging sign for the Bulls would be the result against a common opponent: UB trounced Youngstown State, 3-0, while Canisius fell, 1-0. With three goals and three assists already in her senior season, Carissima Cutrona has vaulted into the top 10 in UB history in goals (23, tied 8th) and total points (59, 8th).
What to know about Canisius: I think Todd Clark's team would have liked more than a draw at St. Bonaventure on Sunday, but a point early in the year at a rival's place isn't the end of the world.
The longer we cover college soccer, the more apparent it is that successful teams boast a solid core of veterans, and the Griffs have that in senior starters Melanie Linsmair, Emily Czechowski, Emily Kuta and Paige Buscaglia (already a MAAC player of the week pick), while the junior class of goalkeeper Alana Rossi, versatile Gretta Dry and Maddie Beaulieu, who scored both goals against the Bonnies, lends added experience. In composure and leadership, the Griffs ought to be strong.
Tonawanda High School product Hope Balling has made a quick transition to college ball, registering three assists - accounting for half the team's goals - over the first four matches of her freshman year.
St. Bonaventure women vs. Niagara
1 p.m. Sept. 9 at Marra Field at St. Bonaventure University.
What to know about St. Bonaventure: After scoring just seven goals in 19 games last season, the Bonnies have already potted 10 in their first six games in 2018, a welcome sign for coach Steve Brdarski's team, even if it has just two draws and four losses thus far.
Clarence High School alum Sydney Cerza leads the way with two goals and two assists, while upperclassmen Sabrina Sousa-Sampson and Gretta LaCouture have two apiece, too. The flow of play isn't much more encouraging for St. Bonaventure, which has been out-shot 105-61; expect Lauren Malcolm to be among the national leaders in saves once again.
What to know about Niagara: At the time of publication, the Purple Eagles were 2-0 at home and 0-3 on the road, which is foreboding for Sunday's trip to Olean. Peter Veltri's squad appears high on depth this year, but there's ample production to be replaced from graduated Courtney Betts and Eva Bachmann.
So far Annie Ibey has been first to raise her hand, notching points in three of the team's five games and scoring both goals in a 2-0 blanking of Cleveland State. Returning attacking midfielder Kelsey Araujo fired an impressive 50 shots last year; she'll look to better her conversion ratio in her second season with the Purple Eagles.
While Niagara continues to rotate in net, Sabrina Locas has been the more prolific of the two starting options. Breanne Guevara, Hadley Bucken and Selena Mangoni are returning members of Niagara's defense. Good news for fans who like goals: Three of Niagara's five games this year have featured five goals.
Medaille men vs. Brockport
3 p.m. Sept. 4 at D'Youville College's Dobson Field (4th St.).
What to know about Medaille: After a frustrating 110 scoreless minutes in their opener against Fredonia, Micky Blythe's Mavs turned in a much better effort in their lightning-shortened Fred Hartrick Classic tilt against Buffalo State.
Even though that match was scoreless through 45 minutes, Medaille proved that - despite nine first-time starters - it could hang with an older, more athletic, more cohesive team. That's a good sign going forward, especially considering captain Anthony Marafioti will return from a short-term injury soon. In time for Tuesday's clash against SUNYAC foe Brockport? It would be surprising.
Although the sample size is small, we're already fond of Australian forward Lachlan Beever, whose direct style and physicality are reminiscent of English Premier League striker Christian Benteke. Fellow forward Carlos Espana complements Beever nicely in his hold-up play; the Madrid native is smart, tidy and plays quickly.
The Mavs' newcomer in goal is Jonny Pitts, a junior transfer whose kick-save on Buffalo State's August Finn kept that match scoreless and suggested that last year's early-season problem area could be a strength this fall.
What to know about Brockport: Medaille sees a quality non-conference foe in the Golden Eagles, who went 5-2-2 in the balanced SUNYAC last season and return two of their three leading scorers in Jason Hayes and Quentin Volpe. Brockport is 1-1 so far this year, suffering a tough 2-1 overtime loss to RIT on Sunday.
Although Joe Romano was one of the conference's better goalkeepers statistically last year, Brockport is rolling with Rochester-based junior Tautis Poniskaitis, a 5'9 transfer from Cayuga Community College.
The Golden Eagles are unusually low on Buffalo connections this year, with just striker Alex Fusani, Kenmore West's school-record holder for goals, the lone Section VI representative. Former FC Buffalo forward Peter DiLorenzo, however, is a member of the team's staff.
Fredonia women vs. D'Youville
3:30 p.m. Sept. 7 at SUNY Fredonia's University Field.
What to know about Fredonia: Our apologies to the Fredonia women's team, one of the few local college sides I didn't see live last season. We'll try to change that this year.
The Blue Devils have already felt the effects of losing Aleeya Clemons, who potted nine goals to lead the team last season. Chris Case's squad has yet to score through two matches and has been out-shot 28-11; Fredonia will look to a cast of youngsters to replace the production, but conference voters don't seem to have much faith in the team's 2018 success.
Defensively, sophomore defender Lauren Cullinan, a graduate of Clarence High School, is the most decorated returnee, earning All-SUNYAC second-team honors in 2017.
What to know about D'Youville: One of the success stories of the 2017 season - which saw the Spartans claw their way to the AMCC semifinals before losing in penalty kicks to heavy favorites Penn State Behrend, who beat D'Youville 6-0 in the earlier meeting.
Offense has been elusive for Jim Hesch's team through two matches, and dropping exhibition matches to two community college teams doesn't exactly inspire much confidence. Neither does a 5-0 stomping by Potsdam at home.
But all of the ingredients are there for D'Youville to threaten during conference play, as the backbone of goalkeeper Megan Dulniak, center back Dominique Riforgiato, sisters Magan and Makenna Magee, and last season's co-leader in goals, Marina Campbell.
Fredonia men vs. Houghton
6 p.m. Sept. 7 at SUNY Fredonia's University Field.
What to know about Fredonia: The good news: Goalkeeper Ty Bentham and center back Jackson Retzer are two players to build around, and the duo was central to the side's pair of clean sheets in the Fred Hartrick Classic.
Followers of Buffalo soccer may be familiar with left back Sam Wagner (Starpoint) and center back Kevin Loftus (Lancaster), too, while freshman right back Robert Aboagye, a superior athlete with technical skills, has been a find for P.J. Gondek.
The bad news: We're not sure if this team can score. Losing Pa Lu to Buffalo State hurts the offense and helps a rival, so goals might have to come from midfielders like Matt Belardi and captain Noah Gittleman until raw attackers Mitch Kalungi and Ibrahim Doumbia establish some sort of rhythm and consistency. For now, the latter pair simply oozes with potential.
What to know about Houghton: It's always tempting to include my alma mater in these posts, and Fredonia's tournament clash with the Highlanders gives me an excuse to do so.
With Houghton still in the process of adjusting to NCAA Division III from NAIA, Matt Webb's team remains competitive - a 2-1 loss to Penn State Behrend, the annual team-to-beat in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference, isn't an altogether bad sign.
Given Houghton's Christian faith focus and appeal to kids of missionaries, it's not shocking the side includes natives of Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria. Houghton faces Buffalo State at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 8, too, as part of Fredonia's preseason tourney.