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Buffalo college soccer honors: Week 2

Thanks to Buffalo State's Theo Pencic, we have a conundrum.

The Norwegian sophomore's hat trick against Houghton, rebuilding somewhat under former Daemen coach Bobby McColl, should have earned him his second consecutive D2/D3 player of the week honor.

Given how many other standout performances there are each week, we've been forced to instill the Theo Pencic Rule, which means a player cannot capture the award two weeks in a row. Spread the wealth!


Week 2: Rodrigo Almeida and Nick Burke, Niagara.

The Purple Eagles' prospects looked dim after two lopsided losses on the road against two RPI Top 100 schools, Detroit Mercy and Western Michigan. The fragile belief of a young team could have been at risk had Bill Boyle's team dropped its home opener - vs. former UB coach Stu Riddle and Northern Kentucky on Friday - but his inexperienced side prevailed in double overtime, 2-1.

Portuguese freshman reserve Almeida, a rather unlikely hero, flicked Matt Krucko-Moeller's well-placed free kick over the head of NKU goalkeeper Baj Maan, who was shaky all evening. But the other 108 minutes - while certainly not stylish - displayed plenty of guile from Niagara, especially after an "oh no, not again" goal conceded in the ninth minute.

[Related: Look back at the honors for Week 1]

Niagara men's soccer celebrates its double-overtime win with its home fans. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

Burke, a freshman keeper from New Zealand, outdid his rival, saving four shots - including a game-saving block of a close-range shot in overtime. The Kiwi's contributions extended beyond the stat sheet; he controlled his box well for a 6'1 goalkeeper, facing 11 corner kicks, making smart decisions on his line.

Honorable mention
• Francesco Caorsi, St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies collected their first win of the 2019 campaign, galvanized by the Italian born, Central Arkansas transfer buzzing around the pitch. Caorsi was first to the rebound of Shea Currey's free kick, accounting for the game's only goal in Bona's 1-0 win over UMBC.

• Federico Mereto, Canisius. It's an Italian sweep of the honorable mention category, as the Griffs' Mereto assisted on both goals in the 2-1 upset of Binghamton, which out-shot the victors 22-5. Hooray, Genova!

[Related: Want to see a local college home game? Peep the composite, sortable schedule]


Week 2: Sabrina Locas, Niagara.

Who are we to disagree with the MAAC? The conference awarded Locas defensive player of the week honors, thanks to her 10-save performance in the win over St. Francis (PA), giving NU a sweep of our D-1 honors.

While the Purple Eagles' offense deserves plenty of credit for their production, the Quebecois goalkeeper - now with the role to herself - has already won four matches, two by shutout, and permitted just .80 goals per game.

[Related: What are expectations for women's D-1 teams this year?]

Honorable mention
• Luca Fahmer, Canisius. Sorry, Luca, we know that's honorable mention two weeks in a row. The superb Griffs newcomer nodded a driven free kick by Maggie Canitia back against the grain and into the side netting for a dramatic double-overtime winner. We're also pumped that Canisius got Intense Milk to sponsor their highlight videos.


Week 2: Zakaria Shaibi, Buffalo State.

If we can't give the award to Pencic by our own (admittedly shaky) rules, then his teammate Shaibi is a fine consolation. The McKinley High School product set the tone against Westminster, giving the the undefeated Bengals a lead in the sixth minute, then tallied a goal and an assist in the 5-0 thrashing of Houghton.

The winger provides instant offense off the bench for head coach Francesco Cardillo, and his willingness to set up teammates shows there's been growth in his game. Though Shaibi's averaged less than a half of playing time per game, he's second on Buffalo State with four goals.

Honorable mention
• Matt Cullen, Fredonia. Blue Devils head coach P.J. Gondek was quick to mention Cullen as a difference-making freshman last year before an injury derailed the early portion of his season, but the sophomore has come back to be a focal point of the Fredonia attack in 2019.

With an assist in the draw against Houghton and a converted penalty kick in the loss to Westminster, the Long Island native deserves some recognition.


Week 2: Alexis Hanson, Buffalo State.

A little home field advantage was all Buffalo State needed. After an 0-3 start, Nick DeMarsh's Bengals captured their own tournament by smashing Trine 6-0 and blanking previously undefeated Westminster 2-0.

Even if Hanson wasn't razor sharp - she took eight shots, putting just three on frame - her brace accounted for the goals in the latter win, and if you watch the highlight below, her willingness to check back to the ball, win a contested header and then time her diagonal run between the center backs earned her the good fortune of the Westminster keeper's bungle.

Honorable mention
• Melanie Minotti, Fredonia.
Welcome back, Melanie Minotti. After missing the last two seasons for Chris Case's team, the Penfield alum was shooting NBA Jam-level fireballs against local foe D'Youville, notching a natural hat trick in the first 61 minutes in the Blue Devils' first win of 2019.

There's definitely an opportunity for a Fredonia goal scorer to fill the voids left by Aleeya Clemons and Abby Price, and on at least one day, Minotti raised her hand.

• Marissa Campbell, Medaille. Sure, Angela Nicholas-Tolsma's Mavs really beat up on poor Wells College, out-shooting them 37-5 (!!) and winning 4-0 behind Campbell's hat trick. You have to feel good for Medaille, though, as it's been a tough several years for the program, and for Campbell, who's fought back from three knee surgeries but has never quit.

• Erin Valente, Buffalo State. This isn't just a Bengals love fest; Valente potted two goals in the demolition of Trine and played the through ball for Hanson's first goal. The transfer from SUNY Cortland makes the players around her better. Quite the coup for DeMarsh, whose program has struggled for a few years after an NCAA Tournament appearance.

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