St. Bonaventure men vs. Niagara
7 p.m. Sept. 15 at Marra Field (3261 W. State St., Olean).
What to know about St. Bonaventure: Now in his fourth season at the helm of the Bonnies, head coach Kwame Oduro finally has a team he's assembled on his own. And the side he's constructed is difficult to play against: they're very athletic, pressure the ball relentlessly and have just enough goal-scoring oomph to trouble their foes.
A 2-1 loss to then-No. 6 Louisville was a promising sign in the opener, and shutouts of Hartford and Albany followed a disappointing scoreless draw at home against Robert Morris. Kosi Nwafornso leads the way with three goals and an assist through four matches, while senior goalkeeper Luke Iacobellis is one of the most underrated at his position in the Atlantic 10.
Nicola Bonso and Kwame Opoku will log heavy minutes for the Bonnies, while we're excited to see the development of newcomers Fredrik Hansen, from Norway, and Isaac Boamah from Ghana.
What to know about Niagara: While a 2-4 start isn't ideal, Niagara has already matched its win total for 2017, and there's enough experience on the roster to carve out surprise results.
Red-shirt senior goalkeeper Steve Casey - a long-serving FC Buffalo backstop and Williamsville South graduate - should be among the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's best in net, and senior leader Bautista Pedezert will try to wrap up his college career with a sterling campaign.
Keep an eye on Ontario freshman Dylan Avila, a crafty forward, and enigmatic Luca Pacheco, who's already scored a game-winner for the Purple Eagles, against Hartford. Junior Mackenzie Roach, a former FC Buffalo midfielder, is fun to watch on the wing, while Jordan Acevedo and Matt Krucko-Moeller are developing quickly.
University at Buffalo women vs. St. Bonaventure
7 p.m. Sept. 14 at UB Stadium (North Campus, Amherst).
What to know about UB: Shawn Burke's Bulls continue to roll through their non-conference schedule; they sit at 5-1 overall, No. 10 in the Midwest Region rankings (I know, how they're Midwest is beyond me) and have done all this despite seven players missing with injury (two likely out for the season).
Having watched Tess Ford play a conservative center back role for two seasons with the WNY Flash's UWS team, any offensive prowess was largely hidden.
It surely wasn't hidden to fans of Williamsville East, and now it's on display for UB's supporters, as Ford has proven a menace off set pieces - corner kicks, especially. She scored once and almost followed with a second minutes later in the team's 2-1 win over Canisius, then struck again against St. Francis (PA) two days later; her production earned her Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Week - following the same feat by fellow freshman Emily Kelly the week before.
What to know about St. Bonaventure: After eight matches in 2018, the Bonnies remain in search of their first win. It's not for a lack of effort, though; Steve Brdarski's team has grinded out four draws and been outscored only 15-11 on the season, an encouraging sign for a squad that relies on depth and star goalkeeper Lauren Malcolm.
Thanks to three goals from a rejuvenated Sydney Cerza, two apiece from Gretta LaCouture and Sabrina Sousa-Sampson, and single tallies from four others, St. Bonaventure has already eclipsed its goal total from all of 2017.
The Bonnies and Niagara played through a scoreless 90 minutes before the Purple Eagles' freshman sensation Annie Ibey potted the game winner seven minutes into the extra session. A trip to Amherst will obviously be a test for St. Bonaventure, who's beaten the Bulls just once since 2012.
Medaille men vs. Lycoming
4 p.m. Sept. 12 at D'Youville College's Dobson Field (4th Street).
What to know about Medaille: Fresh off an NCAA Tournament appearance, Micky Blythe's Mavericks snagged their first win of the season last weekend, crushing Hiram College, 5-2, before falling to No. 13 John Carroll, 2-1.
Australian newcomer Lachlan Beever has been a gem for Medaille, rolling through opponents to the tune of five goals in four matches. He's played forward more out of necessity than design - Beever is either a center back or center midfielder - but the powerful workhorse has had little trouble finding the back of the net in his current role.
Credit to Blythe for challenging his squad before the onset of Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference play, as foes similar to John Carroll and Lycoming, Wednesday's opponent, are reflective of those Medaille would play in the NCAA Tournament.
What to know about Lycoming: The Warriors were a terrific non-conference foe for Medaille in 2017, blanking the Mavs, 2-0 (out-shooting them 20-3), and then losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Lycoming is back with a green squad this fall - the transition from last year's stacked senior class is still happening - but they enter Wednesday's contest ranked 20th in the country but struggling to find goals.
Players to watch include returning leading scorer Sainclair Tueno (11 goals last year), junior goalkeeper Chris Solecki, senior defender Jake Webb and sophomore midfielder Alex Henry.
D'Youville men vs. Buffalo State
4:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at D'Youville College's Dobson Field (4th Street).
What to know about D'Youville: The Spartans' first local rivalry fixture, against Fredonia, was canceled due to field-lighting issues, so head coach Brendan Murphy will finally get another chance to showcase his team's development against another Buffalo-based side on Friday afternoon.
Senior center back and captain Josh Hammer, striker Hunter Sherman and busy keeper Kyle Dick are D'Youville's top three players, but the squad's overall improvement propelled them to the AMCC playoffs last season - in which they nearly toppled eventual champion Medaille in the first round.
Losing the first two matches of the season will be irksome, but what matters is the program's improvement by the start of conference play.
What to know about Buffalo State: While Saturday night's clash at the University of Rochester might be the biggest contest of the weekend for the Bengals, Franco Cardillo's team shouldn't overlook the Spartans on Friday. But Buffalo State hasn't skipped a beat since previous head coach Mark Howlett moved on to Geneseo, compiling a 4-0 record and conceding just once.
After a quiet start, junior winger Ali Shawish, a Lackawanna native, has caught fire over his last two outings, striking for three goals and earning the college's athlete of the week. His outburst has him tied with newcomer Theo Pencic for the team-lead in goals, and reliable goalkeeper Andy Queen has been sound in front of two terrific center backs, Robert Williamson and Saleman Salim.
Daemen men vs. Molloy
1:30 p.m. Sept. 15 at Karrer Field at Park School (4625 Harlem Road, Amherst).
What to know about Daemen: Wait, East Coast Conference play has already started? The wild NCAA Division II schedule leaves minimal time to develop cohesiveness, as Saturday's match at Karrer Field against Molloy represents the most meaningful clash of the young season.
Bobby McColl's Wildcats downed Gannon behind two set-piece finishes and a tidy goal in the run of play by leader Niklas Ringdahl Bohlin, building confidence ahead of ECC play. Brothers Noah and Joey Keem, graduates of Sweet Home High School, are key cogs in a squad that's otherwise heavy in foreign influence.
Picked to finish ninth of the conference's 10 teams, Daemen boasts the attacking talent to better these projections, but success will be largely determined by the team's toughness and organization defensively.
What to know about Molloy: It's been a less-than-inspiring start for Molloy, who, at 1-3, has already dropped a conference match to Bridgeport, 3-1. The Lions have been out-shot 87-40 by their foes so far, and replacing Daniel Massey - who potted 16 goals last year - has not been easy.
Look back at last week's five match to watch post: