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Finding Their Way

Early losses trigger record run for women’s soccer

By David J. Hill

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Highlights from the women's soccer team's regular season.

It was January 2014 and Shawn Burke was meeting with the women’s soccer team for the first time since being named head coach. An assistant for five seasons, he knew how much talent the team had. Still, “Can we win a MAC championship today? No,” Burke recalls saying then. “But we can start putting all the pieces together from now till November to win it.”

That, says Burke, was the last time there was any talk about a MAC title. Instead, it was time to focus on the “million little details”—the small things necessary to become a championship-caliber team.

Ten months after that first gathering, the Bulls weren’t talking MAC title—they were holding it, for the first time in program history. After persevering through back-to-back losses to Virginia Tech and Cornell early in the season, UB went on a 14-game unbeaten streak. The Bulls didn’t lose again until falling to Penn State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, finishing the year 16-3-3 overall (9-0-2 MAC).

“Cornell was a turning point,” Burke says. “The girls conceded three goals in that game, and they weren’t happy about it. They held themselves accountable, and they didn’t lose the next 14 games after that.”

Here are just a few of the many highlights from the Bulls’ history-making season:

JAN. 8, 2014 ››

Athletic Director Danny White hires Shawn Burke as head coach.

SEPT. 26 ››

Following back-to-back losses, the 14-game unbeaten streak begins with a 2-0 win at Kent State.

SEPT. 29 ››

The Bulls land their first of two record-setting rankings, coming in at No. 66 in the NCAA Rating Percentage Index. Six weeks later, they climb to No. 32.

OCT. 5 ››

The Bulls notch their 16th goal of the season, already surpassing the previous year’s season total of 14, with seven games still to go.

OCT. 26 ››

UB captures the regular season MAC title with a 2-0 win over Miami.

NOV. 4 ››

For the first time in program history, the Bulls garner a vote in the coaches’ top 25 poll.

NOV. 9 ››

Junior Jackie Hall’s goal in the 82nd minute clinches UB’s first-ever MAC Tournament title as the team defeats Western Michigan 1-0.

NOV. 14 ››

Making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the 15th-seeded Bulls fall to No. 2 Penn State 4-1 in the first round.

DEC. 5 ››

Jackie Hall becomes the first All-American in program history, earning third-team honors.