Ohio (5–3) began its Mid-American Conference schedule on a high note Thursday when it downed Buffalo 2–1 at Chessa Field. The Bulls had won their last six matches before Thursday, and the Bobcats snapped that streak.
The winning goal came from Ohio midfielder Haley Miller, who knocked a header into the bottom right corner of the net. Miller doesn’t remember what went through her head when she scored. All she remembers is the thrill.
“I honestly don’t really know,” Miller said. “I just think it was exhilaration and absolute happiness for everyone.”
Ohio was on top of the world. Buffalo (6–2) had the best record of any MAC team heading into conference play, and Ohio beat it. Coach Aaron Rodgers knew what to expect from Buffalo, which had beaten Ohio twice last season.
“We know exactly what they’re going to bring,” Rodgers said. “So, we knew what to prepare for, and we knew it was going to come down to a physical mentality.”
The win hadn’t been clear from the start. Buffalo struck first in the seventh minute when Tess Ford cashed in on a corner kick and tipped in a header to put Buffalo up early. Ohio managed to respond with a goal from Madison Clayton a minute later, but it couldn’t gain the upper hand. It took three more shots in the first half, but two saves by Buffalo goalkeeper Emily Kelly prevented Ohio from taking the lead.
A steady rain during the match also played a factor in the struggle for both teams to find a rhythm. Players were sliding and unable to find good footing on the field.
Ohio faced two shots from Buffalo’s Hannah Callaghan, but neither hit their mark. The two teams entered halftime in a stalemate.
That didn’t change in the second half. Ohio’s defense locked down to prevent shots and kept Buffalo from scoring on the three shots it did get off. Buffalo tried to find open looks, but Ohio shut those opportunities down.
The Bobcats didn’t fare much better. Three of their four shots in the second half were all saved by Kelly, but Miller’s match-winning goal in the 81st minute broke the stalemate. Miller hadn’t even been back on the field for a full minute after coming in for Shae Robertson, but that was all the time she needed.
“It’s amazing, you know?” Rodgers said. “The smallest player on the field to score a header to win the game.”
Ohio ended the match with seven shots on goal compared to Buffalo’s five. A win over a team entering Thursday with a six-match winning streak is a massive confidence boost. Ohio can carry that confidence into its next match when it travels to Akron on Sunday.